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Leopold, Aldo (11 January 1887–21 April 1948), conservationist and author, was born in Burlington, Iowa, the son of Carl Leopold, the principal manager of an office furniture manufacturing firm, and Clara Starker. (His first name, Rand, was rarely used.) Leopold came of age during the ascendancy of the progressive conservation movement of the early 1900s. His father (whom he would later describe as “a pioneer in sportsmanship”) and mother nurtured his early interest in the outdoors and in conservation and supported him in his decision to enter the emerging field of forestry. Leopold entered Yale University in 1905, graduating from the Sheffield Scientific School in 1908. In 1909 he received his Master of Science degree from the Yale Forest School, the training ground for many foresters entering the recently established U.S. Forest Service....

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John Muir Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-52000).

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Muir, John (21 April 1838–24 December 1914), naturalist, conservationist, and writer, was born in Dunbar, Scotland, the son of Daniel Muir and Anne Gilrye, farmers. He was educated in Dunbar’s common school and by his father’s insistence that he memorize a Bible chapter every day. With his father and two siblings, John migrated to Wisconsin in 1849; the rest of the family soon followed. On the family’s homestead near Portage, Daniel worked John, just entering his teens, as if he were an adult field hand, inflicting corporal punishment; John Muir later believed that this hard farm labor stunted his growth. The boy’s escape was to devour every book that he came across, and when his father forbade his reading at night, he devised a sort of wooden alarm clock attached to his bed. This “early-rising machine” awakened him very early in the morning, and he would read until it was time for his exhausting chores....

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Olson, Sigurd Ferdinand (04 April 1899–13 January 1982), writer and conservationist, was born in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Lawrence J. Olson (born Lars Jakob Olsson), a Swedish Baptist minister, and Ida May Cedarholm. He spent most of his childhood in northern Wisconsin, where he formed his lifelong attachment to nature and outdoor recreation. Olson earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1920. He returned briefly in 1922 for graduate work in geology and earned a master’s degree in zoology (animal ecology) from the University of Illinois in 1932. Meanwhile, in 1921 he married Elizabeth Dorothy Uhrenholdt; they had two children....