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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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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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:13 am
Wed February 25, 2015

How Will The FCC's Net Neutrality Vote Change The Internet?

Credit Vassilis Michalopoulos / Flickr Creative Commons

The FCC is expected to vote Thursday to change the way the Internet is regulated in the United States and begin enforcing so called "net neutrality." Its a move that has caused ripples from the halls of Congress to the garages of Silicon Valley. But what exactly is "net neutrality," and what does the FCC's vote mean for Internet users?

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
9:09 am
Thu February 19, 2015

Snow Hits Boston-Area Farmers In The Feedbag

Owner Rick Bonanno at Pleasant Valley Gardens in Methuen.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

From snow removal to parking bans to nightmare commutes, we've heard plenty about the challenges our region's cities and towns have been facing this historically snowy winter. But how are Boston-area farms dealing with all this snow?

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Local News
10:27 am
Wed February 18, 2015

Presidents Day Sales Got Snowed Out For Car Dealers

Cars sit on a Watertown Toyota dealership.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

If you are sick and tired of shoveling your car out storm after storm, be glad you're not Rick Hall.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
5:00 am
Thu February 12, 2015

How The National Weather Service Measures Snowfall

National Weather Service observers use snowboards and measuring sticks like these to measure snowfall.
Credit Famartin / Wikimedia Commons

  The back-to-back-to-back snow storms over the past few weeks have given rise to a near nightly festival of numbers: The current snow totals. The total totals. The historic totals. But just where exactly are all these numbers coming from? And how do we know they're right?

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Local News
8:07 am
Tue February 10, 2015

When Working From Home Isn't An Option, Snowy Commute Or Not

Boston firefighters push a car in front of the State House on Beacon Street.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

The MBTA has cancelled all rail service for Tuesday and there is more snow in the forecast for Thursday, so the challenges continue for those working to try and keep Boston open for business this winter.

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LOCAL NEWS
6:55 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Not A Deflated Spirit In Sight At The Patriots Parade

This week’s horrific traffic had plenty of Boston residents calling the Patriots parade a major fumble. But the naysayers were hard to find today in Copley Square.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

For thousands of New England Patriots fans lining Boylston Street today, the mundane and petty tribulations of recent days were all but forgiven and forgotten.  

Deflategate and the NFL’s looming decision on the matter? Meh.

"This is for all the haters around the country who thought we were cheating, and we weren’t," said one parade-goer. 

The historic winter storms that have snarled commutes for a week now? Pshaw. 

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Local News
10:17 am
Wed February 4, 2015

After Post-Snow Gridlock, MBTA Braces For Patriots Parade

Passengers crammed into Red Line trains on Tuesday.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

Tuesday was a mess of a day for commuters on the MBTA, with severe-weather-related delays across all lines — including near stand-still on the Red Line, emergency shuttle buses carrying passengers over portions of a disabled Green Line, and equipment malfunctions along the Blue Line.

I was in the thick of it.

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Local News
8:51 am
Fri January 30, 2015

Competition Concerns Killed Partners' HealthCare Deal

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

A Suffolk Superior Court Judge Thursday struck down a controversial deal that would allow Partners Healthcare to add three hospitals to its already expansive statewide network.

The deal — years in the making — was architected by former Attorney General Martha Coakley and Partners HealthCare, who were seeking to add South Shore Hospital and two north shore hospitals to its network. The complex agreement would have allowed the acquisitions to proceed, provided Partners agreed to a series of conditions, including caps on prices. It was rejected by a judge Thursday evening.

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News
5:08 pm
Wed January 28, 2015

MBTA Back On Its Feet After Blizzard Shutdown

MBTA were back on the roads on Wednesday morning following a blizzard shutdown.
Credit Edgar B Herwick III / WGBH

Thousands of folks were again moving throughout the region, as the MBTA got back into action Wednesday following a shut down for the blizzard.

As expected, there were some delays and cancelations across all modes of public transportation, but the MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo will take that any day.

Of the more than 100 Orange, Green, Red and Blue line trains running today, only six went disabled during the morning rush. Not bad given the conditions, the age of the system – and the 30-40 year red and orange line trains. 

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Local News
1:05 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Utility Scorecard: What Works, What Doesn't, And What To Do

UPDATE 5:10PM: Some 29,000 area residents are still without power this evening, mainly along the coast and on Cape Cod. The entire island of Nantucket has essentially been without power all day, with hospitals and shelters there being serviced by generators. National grid, which provides electricity to most of the island has managed to restore power to some areas, but a spokesman for the company says that at this hour, Nantucket still faces a

potentially lengthy restoration. 

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
10:08 am
Mon January 26, 2015

Lynn Publisher Scores Making Super Bowl Programs

The program for Super Bowl XLIX
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

This year, the team representing the AFC on the field in Super Bowl XLIX won't be the only part of the big game that hails from New England. A local publishing company's work will be in the hands of thousands of fans at the stadium on Super Bowl Sunday.

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY
10:25 am
Fri January 23, 2015

The Original WiFi, Born On Cape Cod In 1903

Guglielmo Marconi works a device similar to the one he used to transmit the first wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

    

It couldn't be more commonplace today, but the idea that a radio signal could be both sent through the air — and received — was an astounding technological achievement. And a crucial step towards accomplishing it was taken right here in the Bay State.

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CURIOSITY DESK
2:44 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

This Week In History: The Great Molasses Flood Drowns Boston's North End

Firemen standing in thick molasses after the disaster
Credit Boston Public Library

First, let's get our heads around Boston's North End in the early 20th century. It was one of the most crowded residential neighborhoods in the whole world in 1919. 

40,000 people in a little over a square mile - four times today's population. And that’s just the residents. It was also one of the country’s biggest commercial ports, said Steve Puleo, author of Dark Tide.
 
"The tank was really plunked down in one of the busiest neighborhoods in all of America," Puleo said.

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Local News
12:02 am
Thu January 15, 2015

Is Boston's Olympic Bid Symptomatic Of An Edifice Complex?

The Boston skyline will soon(ish) change.
Credit Nelson48 / Wikimedia Commons

Developer Richard L. Friedman broke ground Wednesday on his 700-foot tower at 1 Dalton Street in Boston. It’s the tallest skyscraper to be built in town for more than 40 years. When completed, it will be the third tallest building in the city – after the 790-foot John Hancock Tower and the 749-foot Prudential Center. While we all know that size isn’t the only thing that matters, big buildings are certainly one way to gage how a city measures up on the world’s stage.

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CURIOSITY DESK
9:09 am
Wed January 14, 2015

New Ride-Sharing Regulations Are Only The Beginning Of A New Battle

Ride-sharing behemoth Uber will begin sharing anonymized data about every trip that begins or ends in a Boston zip code with city officials.

The move comes as new statewide regulations for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft are set to take effect this week. If it seems like this signals an end to a months-long effort by the city to determine how to best regulate ride-sharing in Boston, or a years-long effort by the taxi industry to shut them down, think again. It's a little more complicated than that. 

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THIS WEEK IN HISTORY FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
12:22 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

How Led Zeppelin Got Banned In Boston

Led Zeppelin plays Chicago in 1975, the year the group was banned by Boston Mayor Kevin White from playing in the city.
Credit more19562003 / Wikimedia Commons

On their record-breaking tours in the 1970s, rock band Led Zeppelin earned a reputation for excess and debauchery. One story even has their drummer riding a motorcycle through a hotel corridor. But it wasn't the band — it was their fans — that got them into hot water here in Boston.

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FROM THE CURIOSITY DESK
11:52 am
Fri January 2, 2015

How Massachusetts Helped Launch The Golden Age Of Hollywood

From left, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, and Louis B. Mayer.
Credit MGM

Much has been made in recent years about Massachusetts' foray into the film industry. Just this year, some 30 major TV and movie projects were made in the Bay State — with stars like Johnny Depp, Vince Vaughn, Naomi Watts and Matthew McConaughey. But in a way, Hollywood is simply coming home.

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