Rand Aldo Leopold was an American ecologist, forester, and enviromentalist. He was a professor at the University of Wisconsin and is best known for his book, "A Sand County Almanac" (1949), which has sold over a million copies. Influential in the development of modern enviromental ethics and in the movement for wildernes conservation, his ethics of nature and wildlife preservation had a profound impacton the enviromental movement, with his biocentric or holistic ethics regarding land. He emphasized biodiversity and ecology and was the founder of the science of wildlife management. Rand Aldo Leopold was born in Burlington, Iowa on January 11, 1887. His father, Carl Leopold, was a businessman and the nephew of his wife Clara's father, Charles Starker. Rand Aldo was named for two of Carl's business partners-C.W. Rand and Aldo Sommers-although the "Rand" was eventually dropped. The leopold family included younger siblings Mary Luize, Carl Starker and Frederic. Aldo married Estella Bergere and together they raised five children. A. Starker Leopold 1913-1983, Luna B. Leopold 1915-2006, Nina (Leopold) Bradley 1917-living, A. Carl Leopold 1919-????, Estella Leopold 1927-????.

Aldo Leopold developed an interest in the natural world at an early age, spending hours observing, journaling, and sketching his surroundings. Graduating from the Yale Forest School in 1909, he eagerly pursued a career with the newly established U.S. Forest Service in Arizona and New Mexico. By the age of 24, he had been promoted to the post of Supervisor for the Carson National Forest in New Mexico. In 1922, he was instrumental in developing the proposal to manage the Gila National Forest as a wilderness area, which became the first such official designation in 1924.

Following a transfer to Madison, Wisconsin in 1924, Leopold continued his investigations into ecology and the philosophy of conservation, and in 1933 published the first textbook in the field of wildlife management. Later that year he accepted a new chair in game management – a first for the University of Wisconsin and the nation.

In 1935, he and his family initiated their own ecological restoration experiment on a worn-out farm along the Wisconsin River outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Planting thousands of pine trees, restoring prairies, and documenting the ensuing changes in the flora and fauna further informed and inspired Leopold.

A prolific writer, authoring articles for professional journals and popular magazines, Leopold conceived of a book geared for general audiences examining humanity’s relationship to the natural world. Unfortunately, just one week after receiving word that his manuscript would be published, Leopold experienced a heart attack and died on April 21, 1948 while fighting a neighbor’s grass fire that escaped and threatened the Leopold farm and surrounding properties. A little more than a year after his death Leopold’s collection of essays "A Sand County Almanacwas published. With over two million copies sold, it is one of the most respected books about the environment ever published, and Leopold has come to be regarded by many as the most influential conservation thinker of the twentieth century.

Leopold’s legacy continues to inform and inspire us to see the natural world “as a community to which we belong.”

Check out this interactive Google map of locations Leopold lived in, wrote about, and visited throughout his life.


Transcribed by: Stacy Bliesener