Edgar B. Herwick III

WGBH's Curiosity Desk

Edgar runs WGBH's Curiosity Desk, where he aims to dig a little deeper (and sometimes askew) into topics in the news and looks for answers to questions posed by the world around us. His radio features can be heard on WGBH's Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and he can also be heard regularly with Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio. His television features can be seen regularly on Greater Boston. Each Friday, he takes 89.7 listeners back in time with his feature, "This Week in Massachusetts History."  

His radio debut came in second grade when he voiced a public service announcement urging drivers to watch out for "him and his friends" walking to and from school. Given the signal strength of WMBT radio in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania and the population density of his native Schuylkill County, it's possible — though not particularly likely — that someone other than his parents heard it. 

After stints as a bartender, photographer and actor — and a 5-year run at the Philadelphia Museum of Art — he joined the WGBH Radio family in 2007. Over the years at WGBH, Edgar has been something of a utility player — hosting live segments, producing features, specials and live music broadcasts; creating web features; and emceeing live events like the Boston Summer Arts Weekend.

He holds degrees in history and communications from Villanova University in Philadelphia and once lost big on an episode of the TV game show "Jeopardy!" Edgar prefers tea over coffee, late nights over early mornings and the Beatles over the Stones (though he's never understood why the Kinks aren't ever included in that conversation). When not at work, he can most likely be found playing, listening to, reading about or dancing to music. 


11:49 am
Wed November 26, 2014

Why Most Mass. Restaurants Will Get Around The New FDA Mandate To Post Calorie Info

Boca Grande won't have to post calorie counts, but Chipotle will.
Credit Boca Grande: John Phelan/Wikimedia Commons; Chipotle: proshob/Wikimedia Commons

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced sweeping new regulations Tuesday requiring all chain restaurants to post calorie counts "clearly and conspicuously" by November of next year. The regulations also extend to grocery stores, coffee shops, movie theaters, amusement parks, and other places where people eat — but there are plenty of places in Massachusetts that won't be affected by the new regulations.

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How We Live
3:31 pm
Mon November 24, 2014

Getting Wild With Dr. M Sanjayan

Dr. M. Sanjayan

For his latest PBS series, EARTH A New Wild, emmy-nominated documentary host and scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan traveled to more than 25 countries across all corners of the globe.

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9:39 am
Fri November 21, 2014

139 Years Of Harvard-Yale Football — With A Bit Of MIT

A streaker, with MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) written on his back, makes his way down the field interrupting the Yale-Harvard college football game during the fourth quarter, Saturday, Nov. 18, 2006 in Boston.
Credit (AP Photo/Lisa Poole)


This weekend, the eyes of college football fans throughout the country will be on two teams from local schools that are usually grabbing headlines on the front page rather than the sports page. Harvard University and MIT are both undefeated heading into action tomorrow — and both have plenty on the line. MIT faces a division three playoff matchup with Maine's Hussan University and Harvard squares off with their old nemesis — a rivalry heavily steeped in tradition.

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Local News
5:48 pm
Tue November 18, 2014

Immigration Confrontation: What Are Presidential Executive Orders And How Do They Work?

Credit Mark Skroloba / Flickr Creative Commons

Obama is reportedly poised to sign an executive order that will allow up to 5 million undocumented immigrants to avoid deportation.

The news has set off a firestorm in Washington about whether such action is appropriate use of presidential powers. So, what exactly are executive orders, how often are they used, and for what?

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10:03 am
Fri November 14, 2014

Hacking The Weather To Make Man-Made Snow — In 1946

Vincent Schaefer watches a snow-cloud being seeded in a lab.
Credit Courtesy GE

 Mother nature wasn't the only one producing snow Friday morning, as this week's low temperatures have allowed ski resorts in the area to start making their first snow of the season, too. That they can, is thanks in part to the work of a General Electric scientist — and his auspicious experiment in the clouds over the Berkshires.

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Politics & Government
8:33 am
Tue November 11, 2014

Judge Apologizes To Coakley After Suggesting Partners Deal Was Politicized

Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders, left, and Attorney General Martha Coakley, right.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

After five hours of highly detailed — often dry — testimony on the proposed expansion of Partners HealthCare, an unusually spirited exchange erupted between Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders and Attorney General Martha Coakley, whose office has negotiated limits on the deal.

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Politics & Government
2:38 pm
Mon November 10, 2014

Judge Grills Partners, AG's Office On Merger

Credit Flickr, jdlasica

Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet L. Sanders dove deep this morning into the details of a negotiated antitrust settlement agreement between Attorney General Martha Coakley's office and Partners HealthCare, as Partners seeks to add two hospitals, one on the North Shore and one on the South Shore, to their already expansive statewide network.

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10:44 am
Fri November 7, 2014

In 1915, Mass. Rejected Giving Women The Vote In A Landslide

This 1915 Boston Journal ad advocated against giving women the vote.

This week Massachusetts voters faced four questions on the statewide ballot, deciding on a range of issues from the fate of casinos to the gas tax. Nearly a century ago, voters faced a single question, and it was a historic one: Should women in Massachusetts be allowed to vote?

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Politics & Government
7:53 am
Wed November 5, 2014

With Question 3 Rejected, A Casino Is Finally In The Cards For Everett

Balloons drop as Everett casino supporters celebrate the rejection of Question 3.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

Hundreds of area casino proponents gathered to watch the final chapter in the state's years-long quest to bring expanded gambling to Massachusetts in Everett, where, after yesterday's vote, casino mogul Steve Wynn's five-star resort is now all-systems-go.

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Local News
4:58 pm
Mon November 3, 2014

Red Sox Nation Bids Farewell To Menino

People lined Yawkey Way on Monday to watch Menino's funeral procession.
Credit Edgar B Herwick III / WGBH News

Shortly before 10:45AM, they began emerging from Fenway Park, donning Red Sox caps, signs in hand expressing their thanks to the longest serving mayor in Boston history.  

Tim Zue, Red Sox Vice President of Business Development, stood among the 150 to 200 front office Red Sox employees on Yawkey Way.  Zue said Menino was an enormous fan of the Sox. 

“Came to Fenway Park quite often I think for 30 years he had season tickets,” he said.  “As the procession comes by we just— if he’s watching above we want him to know that we thank him.”

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Local News
7:47 am
Fri October 31, 2014

Hyde Park Mourns Mayor Menino

Reporters wait outside the Menino residence in Hyde Park Thursday.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

In his 20 years as mayor, Tom Menino was known for transforming so many of Boston's varied neighborhoods. Yesterday, his own neighborhood of Hyde Park was itself transformed, into a symbol of the city's mourning on the day of his passing.

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9:16 am
Fri October 24, 2014

Old Ironsides Celebrates Her 217th Birthday With A Harbor Cruise

On the top deck of the USS Contitution.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

At precisely 8 a.m., as it does every morning, a single shot rings out into the skies above Charlestown.

The gun on the world’s oldest commissioned war ship still afloat was fired Thursday by one of the U.S. Navy’s newest members, Seaman Apprentice Jacob Harned, just 12 days out of boot camp.

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1:44 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Is It Time To Turn The Heat On? Fuel Prices Swing In Both Directions

This week, overnight temperatures in Boston dropped into the 30s for the first time this fall and residents throughout the region reluctantly found themselves facing that age-old autumn question: Is it time to turn the heat on?

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8:37 am
Fri October 17, 2014

This Week In History: Margaret Marshall Becomes First Woman Chief Justice Of Mass. SJC

This May 2, 2005 file pool photograph shows Chief Justice Margaret Marshall asking a petitioner to explain a point during arguments before the Supreme Judicial Court, in Boston, on a petition to halt same-sex couples from marrying until voters can weigh in on the contentious issue.
Credit AP Photo/George Rizer, Pool, File

Long before there was a United States Supreme Court, before there was even a United States of America, the court today known as the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts upheld the law of the land here in the Bay State. Fifteen years ago, for the first time in the court's 300-plus year history, a woman was elevated to serve as chief justice.

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Local News
11:26 am
Thu October 16, 2014

142-Year-Old Trees Cut Down In Cambridge

An arborist begins the careful work of cutting down a now structurally unsound 142 year old yellowood tree.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

Before Red Line trains began whizzing under the streets of Cambridge, before professional baseball existed - let alone Fenway Park, before a single note was played inside Symphony Hall, two yellowwood trees reached into the sky in front of First Church in Cambridge, just across from the Common.

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9:11 am
Mon October 13, 2014

Much More Than Ebola Links Liberia With The U.S.

Credit CIA World Factbook

With the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa, Liberia has been thrust into the spotlight here in America. But did you realize that it's capital city, Monrovia, is named after the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe?

That's just one example of a deep connection between the west African nation and our own.

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2:59 pm
Fri October 10, 2014

A Transcendental Utopia In West Roxbury? Yup, Welcome To Brook Farm

Almost no trace of the Ripley's utopian community remain at Brook Farm. Today, it's 179 acres of managed wilderness, open to the public.
Edgar B. Herwick III

Perhaps nothing embodies the spirit of the hippie movement of the 1960s better than the commune. But more than a century before the flower power of the '60s, a group of high-minded Bostonians were similarly countering the culture of their day, right in our back yard.

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12:26 pm
Fri October 3, 2014

Root The (1903) Red Sox On To World Series Victory

The Boston Letter Carrier's Band plays the Rooters fight song Tessie as the rooters sing along at the 1903 World Series.
Boston Public Library

If you're finding it difficult to watch postseason baseball with the Red Sox on the sidelines after a disastrous season, we invite you to take a moment to reflect on one of the first great moments in Boston baseball history — the first World Series and the unlikely song that helped the home team win the day.

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8:50 am
Thu October 2, 2014

Will The Late-Night MBTA Ride Forever 'Neath The Streets Of Boston?

A sign at Park Street shows the arrival times for Red Line trains.

Six month ago, on the first night of late night MBTA service, there was an unmistakable air of celebration.

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Local News
8:15 am
Tue September 30, 2014

Judge 'Impressed' With Opposition To Partners HealthCare Expansion

Massachusetts General Hospital, a Partners HealthCare member.
Credit AP Photo

This spring, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced an agreement with Partners HealthCare that she felt addressed antitrust concerns over the company’s acquisition of South Shore Hospital and Hallmark Health System, At the time, she hoped that the deal would close quickly, with little fanfare. But it’s now fall, and not only is the deal now mired in controversy, its future is also in doubt, with no resolution in sight.

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Local News
5:05 pm
Mon September 29, 2014

Final Decision On Partners Healthcare Deal Expected After Mass. Election

There will be no final decision on a proposed deal between Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners Healthcare, who are seeking to add Hallmark Health and South Shore Hospital to their network, until November at the earliest.

On Monday afternoon, Suffolk Superior Court judge Janet Sanders said she needed more time to parse the 163 public comments she received regarding the agreement - and a revised version of the deal put forth by the Attorney General last week.

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2:19 pm
Fri September 26, 2014

For Sale: Gloucester Home, Possibly Haunted By T.S. Eliot

T.S. Eliot
AP Photo

Today would have been the 126th birthday of writer T.S. Eliot. While he was born in St. Louis, and emigrated to England in his 20s, the story of Eliot’s life cannot be told without at least a few chapters set right here in the Bay State.

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11:02 am
Thu September 18, 2014

Suffolk Downs Reaches The Final Stretch

Suffolk Downs
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News


Wednesday was a live race day at Suffolk Downs and there was a certain buzz in the air at the historic Boston racetrack, where Seabiscuit ran eight times, where the Beatles played in 1966. But the overriding mood was sadness.

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Local News
4:26 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Tesla Can Continue To Dodge Dealers After SJC Ruling

A Tesla store.
Credit CC Chapman [Creative Commons]

For now, electric car manufacturer Tesla will continue to be able to sell cars directly to consumers from their showroom in the Natick Mall.

The Massachusetts State Automobile Dealers Association had sought to prevent the direct sales, citing a state law that regulates the relationship between car manufacturers and auto dealers, but the Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled Monday that the association and two dealers - Herb Connolly Chevrolet and Fisker Norwood - didn't have legal standing to bring the case.

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11:32 am
Fri September 12, 2014

Local Man Gets Mobbed In Case Of Mistaken Beatlemania, 50 Years Ago Today

Herb Van Dam in the mid-sixties
Courtesy Herb Van Dam

Fifty years ago today, one of the biggest pop-culture waves to ever sweep America made its way to Boston. One local man got swept up — literally — in this particular wave.

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4:53 pm
Wed September 10, 2014

A Look At The Bottom Of The Ballot: Register Of Probate

On Tuesday, voters throughout the Commonwealth did their American duty and cast their votes for the men and women they want to see helm the ship of state for the next few years, including what former Boston City Councilor Richard Ianella calls one of most important elected jobs in the Commonwealth
He is, of course, talking about the Register of Probate.
So who is the Register of Probate? And why should you care, other than the fact that you are expected to vote for one?

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12:13 pm
Fri September 5, 2014

What Exactly Is The Cloud?

Credit Wikimedia Commons photos/Brendan Lynch photo illustration

As nude photos of more than 100 celebrities began circulating the internet this week, the spotlight turned to Apple and its popular iCloud service, believed to be where the hacker obtained the photos. Apple is just one of many companies that uses — and offers users access to — the cloud. But what exactly is the cloud?

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6:00 am
Fri August 29, 2014

The 1918 Influenza Outbreak: When Boston Was Patient Zero

Boston Red Cross volunteers assemble masks at Camp Devens, MA.
Credit National Archives

The deadly outbreak of Ebola in West Africa that has killed more than 1,500 people in four countries since May is a powerful reminder of just how deadly — and unpredictable — a virus can be. Ninety-six years ago this week, the city of Boston was dealing with its own viral outbreak — the start of one of the deadliest natural disasters to ever occur.

A staggering number of people died in 1918. Fifty to 100 million worldwide, by some estimates. The terrifying disease in question? Not Ebola. The flu.

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Local News
5:00 am
Wed August 27, 2014

Massachusetts Ballot Questions: Not Quite A Craps Shoot

It's tough to predict just how citizens will trend when it comes to deciding the casino question in Massachusetts - and three others on the ballot this November: a revised bottle bill, a measure governing the gas tax, and one governing employee sick time. The Curiosity Desk's Edgar B. Herwick III takes a look at how this direct Democracy thing works.

After years of fierce debate, the battle over whether to build casinos in Massachusetts is finally being taken to the people.

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10:31 am
Fri August 22, 2014

How The Sacco And Vanzetti Trial Sparked Worldwide Protest

Bartolomeo Vanzetti (left), handcuffed to Nicola Sacco in Dedham Superior Court, 1923.
Boston Public Library

Today, we go back to 1927, and the final moments for two Boston suspected criminals-turned-cause célèbre whose lives were immortalized by Woody Guthrie and whose story shaped the public policy of one of the Bay State's most renowned politicians.

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