Abbey was born in the town of Indiana, Pennsylvania. After a brief military career (1945-1947) stationed in Naples, he attended the University of Pennsylvania, then at age 21 set off to see the American West, hitchhiking and riding the rails. He fell in love with the desert, a love that shaped his life and art for the rest of his life. Abbey was fond of Whitman's line: "Resist much, obey little", and wrote his master's thesis at the University of New Mexico on "Anarchism and the Morality of Violence". For 15 years in his 30s and 40s, he worked as a part-time ranger and fire lookout at several different national parks, and published DESERT SOLITAIRE in 1968 based on the experience. In all of his work--novels, essays, letters, and speeches--Abbey consistently voiced the belief that the West was in danger of being developed to death, and that the only solution lay in the preservation of wilderness. His most famous work, THE MONKEY WRENCH GANG (1975) featured a band of radical environmentalists attempting to fight back against the industrialization of nature; it is considered an inspiration for the radical environmental organization Earth First! He was married and divorced four times, and married his final wife in 1982; despite his belief the necessity of population control, he had a total of five children. Abbey died at 62 from complications from surgery, after four days of esophageal hemorrhaging. He requested that he be buried in an old sleeping bag, and left instructions that read: "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree. If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture--that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves." A lifelong environmentalist--called "the Thoreau of the American west" by Larry McMurtry--Abbey was also a famously difficult and uncompromising human being, but was greatly loved and revered by a vast audience.