Henry Dvid Thoreau
Written off as an eccentric by many in his hometown of Concord, Massachusetts, Henry David Thoreau abandoned any pretense of a career in favor of observing and writing about nature.
His "eccentricity" resulted in a lasting gift for future generations: A book titled Walden, published in 1854. This account of Thoreau's two years at Walden Pond is universally considered one of the greatest masterpieces of nature writing. It is more widely read than any other book-length work of 19th century non-fiction, and it has been translated into virtually every major language.
But Thoreau was more than simply a lover of nature. He was a keen student, a scientist, an observer, and a philosopher. He believed that man derived his strength from contact with nature.
At a time when his contemporaries thought only of exploiting our natural resources commercially, Thoreau foresaw their rapid exhaustion. He advocated setting aside tracts of land to remain forever wild for the benefit of future generations. He urged federal ownership of outstanding mountain ranges, waterfalls and wilderness, saying, "In wilderness is the preservation of the world."
Largely ignored in his own day, Henry David Thoreau has come into his own in modern times, not only as one of our greatest writers, but also as one of our conservation pioneers.
Back to Past Inductees