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John Wesley Powell was one of the greatest explorers in American history, and his first descent down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon is one of America's greatest adventure stories. Though he is not as well-known as other explorers, his travels and his contributions to American history are important since they represent a spirit of discovery motivated not only by self-glory or even the acquisition of gold or land, but by a fascination with and appreciation for both the natural world and the native peoples of the West. John Wesley Powell chased understanding and the rare experience his whole life. Born in 1834 in Ohio to a Methodist minister, he also became interested in mathematics as a boy and had been lucky to have a neighbor who had been both a budding scientist and a ready teacher (Stegner 13--14). In 1846, the Powell family moved to Wisconsin, where John Wesley fought to keep his scientific education against the will of his father, who desired him to become a preacher. Back in 1857, he founded on his first great adventure: a journey down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers at a rowboat (Stegner 16). In 1861 Powell enlisted in the Union Army and has been chosen captain of artillery under U. S. Grant. He was injured in the Battle of Shiloh in 1862 and missing his arm. Regardless of his debility, however, Powell returned to active duty and finished the war (Stegner 17). Following the Civil War, Powell became a professor of mathematics in Illinois Weslyan and curator of the Illinois State Natural History ministry. In 1867 he moved on his first trip to Colorado and began his lifelong love affair with the American West and the native peoples who lived there. The following year he moved back to Colorado and spent the winter amon...