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. 

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Curiosity Desk
2:33 pm
Wed June 24, 2015

With One Hand And A Lot Of Heart, Pianist Nicholas McCarthy Makes A Name For Himself

Up-and-coming classical musician Nicholas McCarthy stopped by the WGBH studios during a visit to our classical sister station, WCRB.
Credit WGBH/Chiquita Paschal

Growing up outside of London, until he was 14, Nicholas McCarthy figured he would grow up to be a chef.

“Then I saw a friend of mine who played a Beethoven piano sonata ,” he says. “She was a very good pianist and I just absolutely fell in love.”

McCarthy says that’s when he realized that it was what he wanted to do. At the time he thought “I want to be a concert pianist,” he says, “Not taking into consideration that I only had one hand.”

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:34 am
Mon June 22, 2015

We're Number 1: The Massachusetts Constitution Heralded And Outpaced The U.S. Version

Detail from the Massachusetts Constitution.
Credit Library of Congress

"The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government, is to secure the existence of the body politic" — so begins the preamble to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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Local News
10:33 am
Wed June 17, 2015

At South Station: Checkmate While You Wait

Three time US chess champ and certified Grandmaster Larry Christiansen plays 24 games simultaneously at South Station.
WGBH / Edgar B. Herwick III

  

About 50 people were gathered just after noon Tuesday, right where folks often gather at South Station: near the big electronic board listing departures and arrivals. Only no one was looking at the board. All eyes – and plenty of cell phones – were pointed squarely below it. Why?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:00 am
Sat June 13, 2015

News Scraps: Good Stuff That Didn't Make Headlines

  

The Curiosity Desk's weekly roundup of the stats, facts, tidbits and leftovers that almost slipped through the cracks in the WGBH newsroom.

HEY! THAT’S MY EPONYM

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The Curiosity Desk
12:21 pm
Fri June 12, 2015

The Crusty Boston Lawyer Who Helped Shatter McCarthyism: This Week In History

Boston attorney Joseph Nye Welch during the 1954 McCarthy-Army hearings. It was during these hearings that Welch uttered the famous phrase, 'Have you no sense of decency, sir?'
Credit AP Photo

   

It’s one of the most well-known – and written about chapters in American political history. Less covered, is the strong Massachusetts connection.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:00 am
Thu June 11, 2015

Should Boston Police Carry Tasers?

A Taser X26 stun gun is displayed.
Credit AP Photo

The question of whether Boston Police should carry electronic control weapons, commonly known by the brand name Taser, has been renewed after the police shooting earlier this month of Usaamah Rahim in Roslindale.

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Local News
7:50 pm
Wed June 3, 2015

In A Time Of Self Radicalization, The Global Is Local

Clockwise from top left, Tarek Mehanna, Ahmad Abousamra, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Credit FBI photos

Tarek Mehanna, the Sudbury man convicted of providing material support to Al Queda; Ahmad Abousamra, the Stoughton man turned social media guru for ISIS, reportedly killed this week in Iraq; the Tsarnaev brothers; and now Usaama Rahim. All unrelated, but all young men from this area accused or convicted of terrorist activities. It’s enough to get you wondering if there is something deeper going on around here.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:00 am
Sat May 30, 2015

News Scraps: Good Stuff That Didn't Make Headlines

  

The Curiosity Desk's weekly roundup of the stats, facts, tidbits and leftovers that almost slipped through the cracks in the WGBH newsroom. 

THE CURIOUS CASE OF DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE FORM 2535 

Despite a fair amount of advanced warning, plenty of folks were taken by surprise when six fighter jets began screaming across the skies over Boston on Tuesday around lunchtime.

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Local News
10:14 am
Fri May 29, 2015

Does Massachusetts Have A Brush Fire Problem? You'd Be Surprised

A fire-prevention sign stands in Myles Standish State Park.
Credit OldPine / Wikimedia Commons

The thing you notice after a few minutes talking with Dave Celino, chief fire warden for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, is that what you or I might call "brush," or "woods," or "forest," he calls "fuel."

"Fuel diameter, fuel type, fuel moisture, fine fuels — there are categories of fuel," Celino said.

When you get to know a little about his work, you start to understand why.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:20 am
Tue May 26, 2015

'New England's Dark Day': That Time In 1780 When It Was Night Before Noon

A poem recounting New England's 'Dark Day.'
Credit Brown University Library Digital Repository

May 19, 1780, dawned like a promise. It had been a particularly brutal winter in New England, but spring had finally arrived. In fact, it had been unusually warm for days.

There were fields to plant, goods to manufacture, ships to load and unload. But then, as, Cornell University professor Thomas Campanella explains, things got weird.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:23 am
Wed May 20, 2015

Why 'Mad Men' Has No Future On Television

The casts of 'Mad Men,' top, and 'The Brady Bunch.'

More than 3 million people watched the final episode of "Mad Men." Can you guess what nearly twice as many people — some 6.4 million — watched that same night? Two colorized episodes of a 60-year old sitcom, "I Love Lucy," which in its day was a smash hit.

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Local News
5:22 pm
Thu May 14, 2015

Deflategate: Tom Brady, Patriots Go On The Offensive

Tom Brady
Credit AP Photo

New England Patriots ballboy Jim McNally earned the nickname "The Deflator" not because he let air out of footballs, but because he was always trying to lose weight — so said the Patriots Thursday in a near-20,000-word, point-by-point rebuttal of the Wells Report. In it, the Patriots refute everything from the accuracy of the NFL's measurements of the pressure of the footballs to the league's interpretations of text messages between the two Pats employees at the center of the scandal.

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Local News
9:50 am
Wed May 13, 2015

Deflategate: It All Boils Down To Who You Root For

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady speaks at a news conference in Foxborough, Mass., Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015 as he addresses the issue of the NFL investigation of deflated footballs.
Credit AP Photo

Not all lies are created equal. There are little white lies and big ol’ whoppers. Even the Catholic Church differentiates between a lie of omissions and one of commission. And then there’s the question of who’s doing the telling.

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Local News
3:41 pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Tom Brady Speaks: Patriots QB Addresses Deflategate At Salem State

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gestures during an event at Salem State University in Salem, Mass.
Credit AP Photo

As the sun set over Salem State University on Wednesday evening, the area outside the school’s Rockett Arena looked more like the Gillette Stadium parking lot on game day — with scores of Patriots faithful waiting in long lines — enthusiastic, and chatty. The number one topic of conversation?

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Local News
9:58 am
Thu May 7, 2015

NFL's Deflategate Report On Tom Brady Takes The Air Out Of Foxboro

Tom Brady talks about deflated footballs in January.
Credit AP Photo

News that the NFL report on the deflategate controversy had not only concluded that Patriots ballboys deliberately deflated footballs, but that star QB Tom Brady likely had knowledge of the "inappropriate activities," spread like wildfire through Foxboro on Wednesday afternoon — and seemingly everyone had an opinion.

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The Curiosity Desk
1:03 pm
Wed May 6, 2015

Why Would The Chinese Hack Your Health Care Account? Why Would Anybody?

Credit Pickpocket icon by Proletkult Graphik, via The Noun Project

    

What industry gets its data hacked more than any other?

Banks and credit card companies? Nope.

Government? Nope.

Big movie studios, like Sony? Wrong again.

“Healthcare is by far the largest sector of where data breaches are occurring.”

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:54 pm
Fri May 1, 2015

'Birth Of A Nation' — A Classic Of Popular Racism — Spurred Protests In Boston 100 Years Ago

An advertisement for "Birth of a Nation" in Boston.

The protests over the last few days in Baltimore are the latest in a long tradition of demonstrations on the streets of American cities. In fact, 100 years ago, the African-American community here in Boston were organizing and turning out in mass to make their voices heard.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:47 am
Fri April 17, 2015

Cambridge: The Epicenter Of The Human Genome Project

Nicole Barna, a senior operations coordinator at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Mass., holds a tray of human DNA that is undergoing the sequencing process at the institute May 31, 2001.
Credit AP Photo

If then Cambridge Mayor Alfred Velucci had his way back in 1976, we might never have mapped the human genome.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
1:01 pm
Wed April 15, 2015

Inside The Operating Room For A Total Hip Replacement

A surgical team works on Laurie Thornton's hip. In the foreground, a piece of Thornton's femur site on a table.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

Stephen Murphy is one hell of a sculptor. His powerful, almost violent strikes are methodical and impossibly precise.

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Local News
10:23 am
Fri April 10, 2015

How Roman Catholics Conquered Massachusetts: The Inside Story

Jean-Louis Lefebvre de Cheverus, first Roman Catholic Bishop of Boston.

  According to the 2010 Religion Census, a study conducted  every 10 years, 45 percent of Massachusetts residents consider themselves Catholic, making the Bay State one of the most heavily Catholic states in the US. This fact would surely surprise William Bradford, and the rest of the Mayflower pilgrims who first established the Commonwealth. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:56 am
Fri April 3, 2015

The Story Behind Abigail Adams' 'Remember The Ladies' Letter

Detail from Abigail Adam's 'Remember the Ladies' letter.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

The recent controversy over Hilary Clinton's email while serving as secretary of state has once again brought the question of public access to the correspondence of our public figures to the fore. But access is not an issue when it comes to the private letters between our second president, Massachusetts' own John Adams, and his remarkable wife, Abigail — and the American public is all the richer for it.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
3:00 pm
Wed April 1, 2015

How Boston Created 'The American Philosophy In 2 Letters' — OK?

Editors at The Boston Post created the abbreviation 'OK' in 1839.
Credit Photo: Library of Congress; Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch

    

It's a word so common that if you haven't already uttered it today, chances are you will — and probably more than once.

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LOCAL NEWS
11:16 am
Wed April 1, 2015

Patriots Nation Reacts To Tom Brady Taking The Plunge

Based on the Twitter buzz, you’d think that an entire region of football fans was cowering as they watched, with hearts in their collective throat, their three-time Super Bowl MVP jump off a cliff on his summer vacation. But hitting the streets, we found Patriots Nation to be a far more nuanced bunch. 

The Curiosity Desk
9:13 am
Wed April 1, 2015

How Women's College Basketball Battled Its Way Onto Center Court

Connecticut forward Morgan Tuck (3) is guarded by Dayton players Jodie Cornelie-Sigmundova, of France (12), Kelley Austria, Ally Malott and Andrea Hoover during the second half of a regional final game in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament on Monday, March 30, 2015, in Albany, N.Y. UConn won 91-70.
Credit AP Photo/Tim Roske

  This weekend, four college basketball teams will square off in the Final Four. And Kentucky, Duke, Michigan State, and Wisconsin are not among them -- well, at least not the women’s teams. For quite awhile, men haven’t been the only game in town and it took no small effort to make it that way. This, in condensed form, is the story of how women claimed their place on the court.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
10:16 am
Fri March 20, 2015

The Man Who Rescued Nathaniel Hawthorne From Obscurity

James Fields, left, and Nathaniel Hawthorne
Credit Wikimedia Commons

  The question was never whether Nathaniel Hawthorne could write. It was whether he’d ever be able to make a living doing it.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:17 am
Wed March 18, 2015

Bad Winter + March = Pothole Wonderland

Beech Street in Somerville is scarred with potholes.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

There are a few things you can always count on around here this time of year. Hope will be springing eternal for the Red Sox, runners will be out, en masse, on the streets preparing for the marathon. And those streets will be littered with potholes. 

Nothing will turn your local road into the surface of the moon faster than moist weather, with the temperatures bouncing back and forth between above freezing and below it. In other words: pretty much the entire month of March.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:33 am
Fri March 13, 2015

How One Woman Eventually Founded Smith College

Sophia Smith, with Smith College in the background.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

As one of the "Seven Sisters," and a staple on yearly lists of America's top liberal arts colleges, Northampton's Smith College is well-renowned. Less well-known is the story of the woman whose name the institution bears.

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Local News
10:31 am
Thu March 12, 2015

'I Commute Therefore I Am': Braving Snowbanks From The North Shore To The Seaport

Detail from an old ad for Alka-Seltzer.

Ellen Finer’s morning routine is simple. Head from her home in Swampscott to Beverly to drop her son, Alex, off at school. Then onto the Seaport District in Boston for work — simple.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:40 am
Fri March 6, 2015

Meet Clarence Birdseye: 'He's The Enemy Of The Modern Foodie'

An illustration from Clarence Birdseye's patent for a machine to flash-freeze fish.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

  Depending on your point of view, you might want to thank — or blame — Clarence Birdseye.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
4:00 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Isabella Stewart Gardner Opened Her Museum This Week In 1903

A detail from Portrait of Isabella Stewart Gardner (1840-1924), by John Singer Sargent.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

Red Sox spring training got underway this week and with it comes visions of spring, and a soon-to–be packed Fenway Park. But nearly a decade before the first bricks of Boston's storied ballpark were laid, another Boston jewel opened in the neighborhood — willed into existence by a unique woman with a unique vision for Boston.

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