Burroughs, John,1837–1921, American naturalist and author, b. Roxbury, N.Y.; son of a farmer. He was a journalist, a treasury clerk in Washington, and a bank examiner, before settling in 1874 on a farm near Esopus, N.Y. There he studied fruit culture and literature. His first book, Walt Whitman, Poet and Person (1867), was the first to adequately recognize the genius of his poet friend. His prose made widely popular the type of nature essay written by Thoreau. His best-known books are Wake Robin (1871); Locusts and Wild Honey (1879); Fresh Fields, a travel book (1884); Signs and Seasons (1886); and a volume of poems, Bird and Bough (1906). A growing interest in philosophy and in science is evident in Time and Change (1912), The Summit of the Years (1913), The Breath of Life (1915), and Accepting the Universe (1922). "The Sage of Slabsides" became the friend of John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, Edison, Ford, and other important people. He traveled to the Pacific coast, the South, the West Indies, Europe, and (with the Harriman expedition) Alaska, recording natural phenomena in simple, expressive prose.
See his autobiography, My Boyhood (1922); biographies by E. B. Kelley (1959) and P. G. Westbrook (1974).