John Muir

1838 (Dunbar, Scotland) – 1914 (Los Angeles)

Ridgway and Curtis accompanied Muir on an Alaskan expedition. Muir’s former professor brought Agassiz, Emerson, Torrey, Le Conte and Tyndall to visit him in his Yosemite cabin. Agassiz recognised his enlightened understanding of glaciation theory, then still controversial. Le Conte became a co-founder of the Sierra Club, photographed Muir and Theodore Roosevelt striking out together, and died on an outing in Yosemite led by Muir. Muir placed flowers on his hero Emerson’s grave (also Thoreau’s), and led Hooker and Gray on an expedition to Mt. Shasta. Watkins was a friend; his famous Yosemite images predate Muir’s first visit.

Henry David Thoreau

1817 (Concord, Mass.) – 1862 (Concord)

Thoreau, not as reclusive as reputed, was friends (often close) with many authors of mid-19th-century classics. He worked for his neighbour and mentor Emerson as tutor, handyman and gardener. Hawthorne was a fireside companion, described his ugliness as honest and agreeable, and took him to dine with Longfellow. Whitman gave him a personal copy of ‘Leaves of Grass’. Thoreau told Louisa May Alcott how frogs were more confiding in the spring (she said that his beard would deflect amorous advances). He built a fancy summerhouse for her father, and sent Agassiz specimens from Walden Pond at age 12.

Henry David Thoreau knew…