Joseph Wood Krutch

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Joseph Wood Krutch

Joseph Wood Krutch (pronounced krootch) (November 25, 1893 – May 22, 1970) was an American writer, critic, and naturalist.


Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, he initially studied at the University of Tennessee and received a masters degree and Ph.D. from Columbia University. After serving in the army in 1918, he travelled in Europe for a year with friend Mark Van Doren. Afterwards, he worked as teacher at Brooklyn Polytechnic.

He became a theater critic for The Nation and wrote several books, gaining acclaim through a work critical of the impact of science and technology, The Modern Temper (1929). He also wrote biographies of Samuel Johnson and Henry David Thoreau in the 1940s, altogether completing a dozen volumes of literary biography and theatrical history. Throughout his life he wrote 35 books altogether.

The Modern Temper was satirized by Bertrand Russell in his book The Conquest of Happiness.

He worked as a professor at Columbia University from 1937 to 1953.

The Measure of Man was published in 1954 and won the National Book Award for Nonfiction next year.[1]

Krutch is known for his most famous quote, "It is not ignorance, but knowledge, which is the mother of wonder."

After moving to Arizona in 1952, he wrote books about natural issues of ecology, the southwestern desert environment, and the natural history of the Grand Canyon, winning renown as a naturalist and conservationist. These writings expressed a yearning for a simpler, more contemplative life. "If you drive a car at 70 mph, you can't do anything but keep the monster under control," he expressed.

Krutch died in Tucson at age 76 from colon cancer in 1970. One of the last interviews with Krutch before his death was conducted by Edward Abbey and appears in Abbey's 1988 book One Life at a Time, Please (ISBN 0-8050-0603-6).


  • Many of Krutch's manuscripts and typescripts are held by the University of Arizona, where the Joseph Wood Krutch Cactus Garden was named in his honor in 1980.

Selected works[edit]

  • Edgar Allan Poe: A Study in Genius (1926)
  • The Modern Temper (1929)
  • Experience and Art: Some Aspects of the Esthetics of Literature (1932)
  • Samuel Johnson (1944)
  • Henry David Thoreau (1948)
  • The Twelve Seasons (1949)
  • The Desert Year (1951)
  • The Best of Two Worlds (1953)
  • The Measure of Man (1954)
  • The Voice of the Desert (1954)
  • The Great Chain of Life (1956)
  • The Grand Canyon: Today and All Its Yesterdays (1957)
  • "The sportsman or the predator? A damnable pleasure" The Saturday Review (17 August 1957): 8-10, 39-40. Concerning "killing for sport."[2][3]
  • Human Nature and the Human Condition (1959)
  • The Forgotten Peninsula (1961)
  • The World of Animals; A treasury of lore and literature by great writers and naturalists from the 5th century B.C. to the present (1961)
  • More Lives Than One (1962)
  • And Even If You Do; Essays on Man, Manners and Machines (1967)
  • The Scarlet Letter Rap (2011)
  • The Best Nature Writing of Joseph Wood Krutch (anthology, University of Utah Press, 1995; ISBN 0-87480-480-9)


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 1955". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-03-19.
    (With acceptance speech by Edel.)
  2. ^ Wildlife and People: THE HUMAN DIMENSIONS OF WILDLIFE ECOLOGY - Google Books Result Article cited in book by Gary G. Gray (1995 University of Illinois Press)p. 64. Retrieved 8/4/09.
  3. ^ Article title detail at JSTOR. Found at Google search "a damnable pleasure krutch."

External links[edit]