Timeline of Sigurd Olson's Life

1899 Born in Humboldt Park, Chicago, on April 4.
1906 Family moves to Sister Bay, Wis., on the rugged Door County Peninsula.
1909 Family moves to Prentice, a logging town in north central Wisconsin.
1912 Family moves to Ashland, Wis., on the edge of Lake Superior.
1916-1918 Sigurd attends Northland College in Ashland; works during the summers at a farm in Seeley, Wis., owned by Soren Uhrenholdt.
1918-1920 Sigurd attends the University of Wisconsin in Madison, earns undergraduate degree in agriculture.
1920-1922 Sigurd teaches animal husbandry, agricultural botany and geology in the high schools of the neighboring northern Minnesota towns of Nashwauk and Keewatin.
1921 Sigurd takes his first canoe trip in June; the Nashwauk (Minn.) Herald publishes the article he wrote about the trip on July 22. A nearly identical version of the article is also published on July 31 by the Milwaukee Journal. Sigurd marries Elizabeth Dorothy Uhrenholdt on August 8. Their honeymoon is a three-week canoe trip.
1922 Sigurd starts graduate program in geology at the University of Wisconsin in Madison; Elizabeth helps with finances by teaching elementary school in Hayward, Wis.
1923 In January Elizabeth learns she is pregnant; Sigurd drops out of school and lands a job teaching high school biology in Ely, Minn., at the edge of the canoe country wilderness. They move there in February. During the summer, Sigurd finds work as a canoe trip guide, which he continues doing every summer throughout the 1920s. Sigurd and Elizabeth become parents on September 15, when Sigurd Thorne Olson is born.
1925 Robert Keith Olson is born on December 23. Sigurd is involved in the first battle over the canoe country wilderness, a conflict over proposals to build roads into previously inaccessible areas.
1926 In September, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture ends the current canoe country conflict by allowing two major roads to be built, and by creating three wilderness areas within Superior National Forest. Meanwhile, Sigurd begins splitting his teaching duties between Ely High School and Ely Junior College. At the junior college, he teaches animal biology and human physiology.
1927 In November Field and Stream publishes Sigurd's first magazine article, "Fishin' Jewelry."
1929 Sigurd and two other men found the Border Lakes Outfitting Co. As manager, Sigurd spends less of his time guiding than in the past. He manages the company until the mid-1940s, and maintains partial ownership until 1951.
1931-1932 In the fall of 1931, the Olsons move to Champaign, Ill., so Sigurd can earn a master's degree in zoology at the University of Illinois. Sigurd works under Victor Shelford, the nation's leading animal ecologist. He earns his degree in June 1932, after completing a thesis—the first of its kind—on the timber wolf. The Olsons move back to Ely, and Sigurd begins teaching full time at Ely Junior College.
1932 In May and June, Sports Afield publishes Sigurd's two-part article "Search for the Wild," his first article fully devoted to wilderness philosophy.
1936 Sigurd becomes dean of Ely Junior College.
1938 In September American Forests publishes Sigurd's article "Why Wilderness?" Superior National Forest's three wilderness areas, recently enlarged, are renamed the Superior Roadless Areas.
1941 Sigurd begins a syndicated newspaper column, "America Out of Doors." It lasts until 1944, then, like many syndicated columns of the time, it dies as government wartime restrictions on newsprint force newspapers to cut back.[Click here for links to 27 of the columns that he wrote during this period.]
1945 In June, Sigurd heads to Europe for a year as a a civilian employee of the Army. He teaches GIs waiting to be shipped back to America, and is an official observer at the Nuremburg trials.
1947 Sigurd resigns as dean of Ely Junior College to devote full time to his writing.
1948-1949 Sigurd spearheads fight to ban airplanes from the wilderness canoe country near his home. It is a precedent-setting, successful battle, and brings Sigurd national recognition in conservation circles. [For more information, see the month-by-month accounts beginning with March 1948.]
1951 Sigurd becomes vice-president of the National Parks Association.
1953 Sigurd becomes president of the National Parks Association.
1955 The year begins with Sigurd signing his first book contract, with Alfred A. Knopf. In the summer, Sigurd and a group of prominent Canadian friends spend several weeks paddling the wild Churchill River in Saskatchewan, one of a handful of rugged trips they would take together.
1956 The Singing Wilderness is published in April, shortly after Sigurd's 57th birthday. It becomes a New York Times bestseller. In the summer, the Wilderness Society elects Sigurd to its governing council. Sigurd is among the conservation leaders working on drafts of a bill to establish a national wilderness preservation system.
1958 Listening Point is published; the Superior Roadless Areas are renamed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
1959 Sigurd resigns as president of the National Parks Association, and joins the advisory board of the National Park Service. He remains on the board until 1966.
1961 The Lonely Land is published.
1962 Sigurd becomes a consultant on wilderness and national park matters for Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall.
1963 Runes of the North is published; Sigurd becomes vice-president of the Wilderness Society.
1964 In July, 65-year-old Sigurd embarks on his last major canoe expedition, a voyage from Lake Winnipeg to Hudson Bay along the Nelson and Hayes rivers. In September, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Wilderness Act, establishing the national wilderness preservation system.
1965 Sigurd is part of a National Park Service task force that recommends preserving nearly 80 million acres of land in Alaska. Fearing a political firestorm, the agency buries the report, but the work behind it ultimately bears fruit in the Alaska National Interest Lands and Conservation Act of 1980.
1968 Sigurd becomes president of the Wilderness Society. In November, he suffers a major heart attack during the society's annual meeting at Sanibel Island, Florida.
1969 Open Horizons and The Hidden Forest are published.
1971 Sigurd resigns as president of the Wilderness Society, citing his health and desire to write. President Nixon signs into law the act establishing Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota; Sigurd had played an important role as an advocate of the park since the early 1960s, and he also gave the park its name. Also in 1971, a new elementary school in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley is named after Sigurd.
1972 Wilderness Days is published; the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute is established at Northland College in Ashland, Wis.
1974 The highest honor in nature writing, the John Burroughs Medal, is presented to Sigurd.
1976 Reflections From the North Country is published.
1977 Sigurd is hanged in effigy in his home town of Ely, Minn., during debates about the status of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
1978 President Jimmy Carter signs the law granting full wilderness status to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, more than fifty years after Sigurd Olson's first efforts to protect it.
1979 In December, Sigurd undergoes successful surgery for colon cancer. However, he never fully regains his strength.
1982 On January 13, Sigurd dies of a heart attack while showshoeing near his home. Of Time and Place is published.
1994 Elizabeth Olson dies of heart failure on August 23, at the age of 96.