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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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
8:26 am
Fri April 18, 2014

239 Years Ago, Minutemen Flew The Forster Flag, The 1st With 13 Stripes

The Forster Flag
Credit Courtesy Doyle New York

They came from all over: Sudbury and Framingham, Billerica and Chelmsford. Farmers, shopkeepers, even ministers. Some had muskets. Some had knives. Some carried no weapons at all.

This time the British had gone too far. Seven hundred redcoats were advancing on the town of Concord, determined to destroy a cache of colonial military supplies. The colonies’ disparate town militia — the Minutemen — were resolved to turn them back. The American Revolution had begun.

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Local News
6:40 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Beth Israel's ER, One Year Ago: 'This Is Going To Be Bad. This Is Real'

Dan Nadworny
Edgar B. Herwick III

At 2:49 Tuesday afternoon, silence fell over the halls at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, as the staff took a moment to honor the victims of the Marathon tragedy. It was a marked contrast to the scene one year ago.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:05 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Chelsea On Fire: 1908

Courtesy George Ostler

It was a warm — and very windy — morning in Chelsea on April 12, 1908, Palm Sunday, when an unthinkable disaster began to unfold.

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Local News
6:00 am
Wed April 9, 2014

BAA Foots The Bill For Heightened Marathon Security

State Police Col. Timothy Alben, speaks to media in Framingham, Mass., Monday, March 10, 2014, regarding security measures for the upcoming Boston Marathon on April 21.
Credit (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    

Almost a year after the horror of last year’s Boston Marathon, a sense of normalcy has returned to Boylston Street.

But in less than two weeks, record crowds are expected to return — along with new anxieties about security. Keeping everyone safe is a job that falls on people like Massachusetts State Police Col. Timothy Alben.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:36 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Late-Night MBTA: Stories From The Boston Underground

A Red Line MBTA train running at 2:35 a.m.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III

For the first time in a long time, as the clock struck 1 a.m. on Saturday, the Park Street station in Boston was packed with riders disembarking a Green Line train. Most were not heading home. They were heading out.

“Wooo, Park Streeet!” one rider called out.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:59 am
Fri March 28, 2014

How Boston Lost The Patriots And 'New England' Grabbed the NFL's 'Gold Standard'

Fenway Park was transformed into a football field for a Pats home game in 1963.
Credit Boston Public Library

In March of 1971, there was no Twitter. There was no 24-hour sports radio in Boston. No ESPN. It was in the newspaper, 43 years ago this week, that area football fans learned that the Boston Patriots were no more. They were now the New England Patriots.

“The Patriots were gonna be called the Bay State Patriots," said Pat Sullivan, former general manager of the Patriots, laughing. "That concept lasted about two weeks.”

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:00 am
Fri March 21, 2014

Memories Of The 1980 Olympic Boycott Still Sting

Kurt Somerville in his rowing days, third from left.
Credit WGBH News

Usually, when athletes meet the president, it’s a celebratory affair. You’ve won the World Series or the Super Bowl or a gold medal. But that wasn’t that case in 1980, when President James Carter gathered more than 100 Olympic athletes at the White House for an announcement. The Soviet Union had invaded Afghanistan a few months prior, and the United States had been threatening to boycott the Summer Olympics in Moscow. On March 21, a decision was made.

"I can't say at this moment that other nations will not go to the Summer Olympics in Moscow," Carter said at the time. "Ours will not go."

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:42 am
Thu March 20, 2014

Big Bang Theory: A Roman Catholic Creation

A nighttime view of our galaxy, the Milky Way. The Milky Way, like every star seen in this photo, was set in motion by the big bang.
Credit Abdul Raham / Flickr

Between the announcement this week that scientists have detected primordial gravitation waves and FOX's reboot of Carl Sagan's groundbreaking series, "Cosmos", the Big Bang theory is enjoying its biggest moment since it banged the observable universe into existence 13.8 billion years ago.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
6:06 pm
Mon March 17, 2014

What Menino's Cancer Diagnosis Means

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino has been diagnosed with cancer.

Former Boston Mayor Tom Menino, who days ago announced he has an advanced form of cancer that has spread to his liver and lymph nodes, finds himself among the small percentage of people whose cancer can't be tracked back to its origin.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:41 am
Fri March 14, 2014

What The MBTA Owes To The '88 Blizzard

Weather map of the Blizzard of 1888.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The winter of 1888 was nothing like this winter. “Snow was the furthest thing from people’s mind,” said Doug Most, author of The Race Underground: Boston, New york, and the Incredible Rivalry That Built America’s First Subway. “New York City, Boston, the entire Northeast was winding down one of the mildest winters on record.”

That all changed here on the evening of March 11.

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FROM THE CURIOUSITY DESK
2:12 pm
Thu March 13, 2014

Paralympic Curlers Chase Gold From Falmouth to Sochi

Meghan Lino throws a curling stone. Wheelchair curlers get into a stationary, tandem position for stone throws and use a a delivery stick - a pole with a bracket that fits over the rock handle, allowing the rock to be pushed while applying correct rotation.
Credit Patricia Alvarado Nunez / WGBH

  The U.S. Wheelchair Curling team's hopes for a medal at the 2014 Paralympics came to an end today after a heartbreaking overtime loss to Great Britain in their ninth and final preliminary round match.

Following Thursday's action on the ice, American team members David Palmer, of Mashpee, and Meghan Lino, of East Falmouth, along with their coach Tony Calacchio posted on their blog on the Cape Cod Curling Club website.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:38 am
Fri March 7, 2014

Blame The Bay State For Voter Registration

In the early days, voting here in Massachusetts was pretty informal.

"You showed up at the polls and you said who you were and the notion was that people there, and town officials, would know who you were and they would know whether you met the requirements," said Alex Keyssar, a professor of history and public policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. The requirements were simple: You had to be a man. You had to have established residency in your town. And you had to own property. Notably, you did not have to be white.

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This Week In History From The Curiosity Desk
11:11 am
Fri February 28, 2014

How Shacks For The Shipwrecked Spawned Mass. General Hospital

Lifeboat manned by Cohasset Crew, April 2, 1918
Credit Humane Society of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts/Massachusetts Historical Society

In Boston in the 1780s, there were fewer places more dangerous than Boston Harbor.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:00 am
Fri February 21, 2014

Quincy Man Threw Himself On Grenade To Save Fellow Marines At Iwo Jima

Pfc. William Robert Caddy
Credit Wikimedia Commons

In February 1945, a few days into the Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most indelible images of the World War II was captured on film: Five Marines and one Navy corpsman, raising an American flag atop Mount Suribachi.

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From the Curiosity Desk
2:17 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

You're Reading This Correctly: Why Was It So Warm This January?

The Polar Vortex is a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure.
Credit NASA

What do you get when you add hefty snowfall to the Polar Vortex and sprinkle in a bit of Bombogenisis on top? The fourth warmest January on record.

Huh?!

It’s been a good old fashioned winter here in Boston, complete with 2 degree nights, 21.8 inches of snow, and (hyperbole alert) 8,342 stories in the local press about whether you can use a lawn chair to save your parking space.

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Local News
4:29 pm
Tue February 18, 2014

How Does Mayor Walsh's $175,000 Salary Stack Up?

Mayor Marty Walsh joined Jim and Margery on Friday for the first of many monthly segments on Boston Public Radio.
Credit Patricia Alvarado / WGBH News

We learned last week that new Boston Mayor Marty Walsh will earn $175,000 this year, the same salary as his predecessor Tom Menino. (Walsh also unveiled the salaries of his key staffers)

That got the Curiosity Desk wondering how his paycheck measures up against his fellow mayors across the country.

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From the Curiosity Desk
4:47 pm
Thu February 6, 2014

Navigating Boston's Wintry Streets On Two Wheels

A bicyclist in Somerville braves the February 5 snowstorm.
Credit WGBH/Amanda Kersey

On a recent snowy winter morning, I spotted Shelly Pearson cycling on the bike path along Memorial drive in Cambridge. As she approached, it was pretty clear she knew what I wanted to talk to her about.

“This is not the best weather to commute in,” she said, laughing, as she slowed to a stop.

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Local News
5:52 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Share Your Winter Biking Tips

Bekka Wright rides to work.

The Curiosity Desk asked winter cyclists to send in their tips for making it through the winter. Do you have a winter biking tip? Leave it in the comments section below.

Rob Donnelly from Cambridge, MA:

“When it's snowy I sometimes where my ski goggles to keep the snow out of my eyes.”

Brett Montgomery, Lowell, MA:

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From the Curiosity Desk
3:23 pm
Tue January 28, 2014

Noel Paul Stookey On Pete Seeger

Pete Seeger at age 88 photographed at the Clearwater Festival 2007
Credit Anthony Pepitone

Last year, Noel "Paul" Stookey, of famed folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, stopped by the WGBH News for a chat on Boston Public Radio. He discussed legendary folk singer, songwriter and activist Pete Seeger, who died Monday at the age of 94.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
7:53 am
Thu January 23, 2014

MBTA Bus Skipped Your Stop? Here's Why

An Out of Service MBTA bus pulls in to the Haymarket Station.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

It's a winter evening. Rush hour. It's dark, and relatively mild for January. But it's raining.

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From the Curiosity Desk
5:26 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

Going Turncoat In America

Benedict Arnold
Credit Wikimedia Commons

January 13 marked what would have been the 273rd birthday of America's most famous traitor, Benedict Arnold. Arnold's betrayal during the American Revolution is so notorious that today his name is actually a synonym for the word traitor. But Arnold was by no means the only man to turn go turncoat on the U.S.A.

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From the Curiosity Desk
4:22 pm
Tue January 7, 2014

The Polar Vortex Is Nothing New

This image captured by NOAA's GOES-East satellite on Jan. 6, 2014, at 11:01 a.m. EST shows a frontal system that is draped from north to south along the U.S. East Coast. Behind the front lies the clearer skies bitter cold air associated with the polar vortex. Forecasters said some 187 million people in all could feel the effects of the "polar vortex" by the time it spread across the country on Tuesday, Jan. 7. 2013.
Credit AP/NASA

It seems that if there’s one thing on Earth more popular than Downton Abbey right now, it’s the polar vortex. That catchy little two-word phrase is being used to explain the frigid temperatures across much of the United States.

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Local News
9:43 am
Mon January 6, 2014

5 Boston Mayors, 7 Locations, 15 Inaugurations

Marty Walsh looked over his speech before he took the stage at his inauguration on Jan. 6, 2014.
Credit Phoebe Ramier / WGBH

On the morning of January 6, Martin J. Walsh was sworn in as Boston's first new mayor in more than two decades. 

Unlike his predecessors, Walsh did not take the oath of office in the heart of the city. Instead, he chose Boston College's Conte Forum as the site of his inauguration- seven miles from City Hall on a college campus that mostly lies outside the city limits.

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Local News
5:09 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

Somerville Still Raises The Grand Union Flag 238 Years Later

A parade proceeds from Somerville City Hall toward Prospect Hill
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH

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Local News
6:00 am
Mon December 23, 2013

The Life Cycle Of A Boston Christmas Tree

Mahoney's Christmas tree farm in Nova Scotia.
Credit Courtesy Mahoney's Gardens

Katalin Coleman is from Hungary - she now lives in Sweden - but every Christmas she travels here to spend the holidays with her brother and father.  

Among her duties each year: select the family’s Christmas tree. This year she went to Mahoney’s, a garden center in Boston. And so she’s picked out a 7-foot balsam fir, one of the most popular choices for a Christmas tree here in New England.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:45 pm
Thu December 12, 2013

Previewing The Hilltop Steakhouse Auction

The iconic Hilltop Steakhouse closed earlier this year. On Saturday, the venue will auction off the remains of the restaurant (sign not included).
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH

The iconic Hilltop Steakhouse served its last meal back in October, but this Saturday, the restaurant will open its doors one last time — not to serve up steak dinners, but to hold an old-fashioned on-site auction, where everything from kitchen equipment to memorabilia will go up for sale.

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Local News
5:00 am
Wed November 27, 2013

The Story Inside That Cranberry Sauce Can

Credit alexa627 on Flickr

There’s the turkey. The stuffing. The mashed potatoes. But there’s one thing that truly makes a feast a Thanksgiving feast: Good old cranberry sauce.

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Local News
5:00 am
Wed November 27, 2013

Five Cranberry Facts

Almost nobody buys fresh cranberries

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Local News
9:50 am
Fri November 22, 2013

Two Other 20th Century Titans Who Died On Nov. 22, 1963

Aldous Huxley
Credit AP Photo

November 22, 1963 is forever remembered for the shocking events on Dealey Plaza in Dallas: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

But on that same day 50 years ago, two other 20th century titans quietly passed in their respective homes: Chronicles of Narnia author C.S. Lewis in Oxford, England, and Brave New World author Aldous Huxley, in California.

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YOU'RE NOT ALONE
2:13 pm
Thu November 14, 2013

Caring For Elderly Parents Is A Daily Choice

Allen Ward, left, and his mother, Grace.

This story is part of the WGBH News series You're Not Alone,  which explores the challenges that come with caring for elderly parents.

It’s been five years now since Allen Ward lost his father.

His mother, Grace, now lives independently in the same Tennessee house where she’s been for the past 30 years. She is 82 and in relatively good health. She’s financially stable, involved in a senior group and active in her church.

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