As a scientist, educator, philosopher, writer, and a leader in the conservation movement, Sigurd Olson made an indelible mark on the 20th century environmental consciousness in America.
Through nine books, numerous magazine and newspaper articles, and countless speeches Olson extolled the virtues of what he called "the singing wilderness" and became a leading advocate for wilderness conservation. Inspired by the likes of John Burroughs and Henry David Thoreau, Olson focused many of his writings on the spiritual values of wilderness, which set him apart from other philosopher-environmentalists of his time.
The son of a minister, Olson possessed uncommon charisma, and developed a loyal following of individuals inspired by his sense of connection to the natural world. Olson's personal appeal propelled him onto the front lines of the environmental movement in leadership positions with the Izaak Walton League, National Parks Association, Wilderness Society, and National Park Service. In addition, he served as secretary of the Interior from the late '50s to the early '70s.
Throughout Olson's long and fruitful career he had a hand in drafting and ushering through landmark legislation, including the Wilderness Act, which established the wilderness preservation system. The recipient of numerous honors from conservation organizations, Olson also won recognition as a writer, receiving the Burroughs Medal, the highest honor in nature writing, in 1974.
Back to Past Inductees