AS a young boy, John Muir’s view took in the sweeping sands and rugged rocks of the East Lothian coastline, rolling hills and fertile farmland.

The Bass Rock, a haven for guillemots and puffins, was a boat ride away, and the Dunbar fishing boats would land their catch of herring and shellfish in one of the three harbours close to the family’s High Street home. For Muir, the great outdoors were an escape from the misery of his Victorian childhood. Beaten by his father, Daniel, it was his grandfather who took him on nature walks, teaching him about the wildlife and plants that thrived in the area.

Dunbar laid down the foundation for a lifelong love of the great outdoors which would eventually see Muir regarded as the father of ecology, a political activist and the architect of North America’s national parks. He left East Lothian for America with his family aged 11, with a gold sovereign from his grandfather to help him move away from the brutality of his father.

Home became Wisconsin where Muir worked on a farm before dropping out of Wisconsin University to work in a steam-powered factory in Indianapolis. When an industrial accident almost cost him his eye, Muir shifted focus back to his first love, the great outdoors and the “inventions of God”.

He walked thousands of miles across the United States, to Cuba and then San Francisco before exploring Yosemite Valley, keeping a journal of scientific and personal observations and drawings.

He first suggested the idea of Yosemite Valley becoming a national park in a magazine article in 1889. It inspired a movement to protect America’s precious natural landscapes, and within a year a law had been passed to create the first national park. He founded the Sierra Club in 1892, dedicated to preserving wild lands, and went on to publish a string of books that highlighted the natural features of the places he visited.

His influence led to the New York Times describing him as “one of the greatest thinkers of America” and he counted several presidents among his close friends. He said of himself: “I could have become a millionaire, but chose instead to become a tramp”.