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The first Earth Day celebration was held on April 22 for mostly prosaic (and one poetic) reasons. When Gaylord Nelson LLB’42 founded Earth Day, he wanted it to be an environmental teach-in. “At the time, anti–Vietnam War demonstrations, called ‘teach-ins,’ had spread to college campuses all across the nation,“ Nelson wrote. “Suddenly, the idea occurred to me — why not organize a huge grassroots protest over what was happening to our environment?” Nelson chose late April, because he wanted to be sure that schools and colleges would all be in session, and to find a date that wouldn’t conflict with Easter or Passover. April 22 happened to fall one day after the birthday of John Muir x1863. That’s the prosaic reasoning. The poetic reason is that April 22 was the birthday of advertising exec Julian Koenig, who was helping to promote the event. He pushed the name Earth Day because it rhymes with birthday.

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