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Aldo Leopold

Aldo Leopold Photo

Rand Aldo Leopold was born on 11th January 1887, in Burlington, Iowa. He was the first child of, Carl Leopold, a businessman, and, Clara Starker. He was named after two of his father’s business partners—C. W. Rand and Aldo Sommers. His family also included three younger siblings. His first language was German, but he’d mastered English at a very early age. He attended Prospect Hill Elementary, where he placed at the top of his class, and then, the Burlington High School. He had a nature-loving personality and showed great interest in observing and sketching the world around him.

In 1900, Leopold found out that, Gifford Pinchot, who was a forester and politician, had given funds to the Yale University in order to start the nation’s first forestry school. Leopold decided to get enrolled in this program. In January 1904, he was recommended to the Lawrenceville School by his previous institution. This was a preparatory school where he spent almost a year, during which time he was accepted into Yale. Since he did not have his undergraduate degree, he had to attend Sheffield Scientific School before joining the Yale School of Forestry. Aldo graduated from Yale with his Master’s Degree in Forestry in June 1909. He joined the United States forest services in the same year and was assigned District 3 in the Arizona and New Mexico territories. In 1911, Leopold was transferred to northern New Mexico. Here he married Estella Bergere in 1912 and they had five children together. They lived in New Mexico until 1924, when he accepted a transfer to the U.S. Forest Products Laboratory in Madison and became an associate director. He was appointed Professor of Game Management in the Agricultural Economics Department at the University of Wisconsin in 1933.

Leopold believed that the industrial growth and the increased need to clear land for public demands was driving the country’s wildlife to extinction. He, therefore, saw the need to allocate a certain area for these species, an area where they did not feel threatened by human dominance. He was the first person to come up with the idea of a wilderness, a form of safe haven for animals such as wolves and mountain lions, which were otherwise a frequent target for hunting. In 1935, he assisted in establishing the Wilderness Society, which was dedicated to protect and expand the nation’s wildernesses. He bought an eight-acre run-down farm the same year, which he and his family helped restore by planting thousands of pine trees, and by tending to the gardens. They turned the chicken coup into a cabin, which they called the ‘shack’. The family would visit the farm on weekends and work tirelessly to renovate the area.

There was no questioning of Leopold’s fondness for nature. He was very observant of his surroundings and usually wrote down everything he saw. He was a notable nature writer and is best known for his book A Sand County Almanac. The book was published shortly after his death and has sold more than two million copies.

Aldo Leopold died on April 21, 1948, after suffering from a heart attack. He was buried in his hometown, Burlington, Iowa. His work was carried forward by all five of his children, who followed his footsteps and became teachers and naturalists. Of his three sons, Aldo Starker was a Wildlife Biologist, while Luna Bergere and Aldo Carl were chose to became a hydrologist and plant physiologist respectively. His two daughters Nina and Estella became naturalists and botanists. His two-story home near the University of Wisconsin stands as one of the landmarks of Madison.

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