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. 


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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Local News
2:47 pm
Thu August 21, 2014

Ferguson And Boston: Could It Happen Here?

Police in riot gear watch protesters in Ferguson, Mo. on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014, a white police officer fatally shot Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in the St. Louis suburb.

Over the last two weeks, Ferguson, Mo., a hardscrabble town of 22,000 northwest of St. Louis that is 67 percent African-American but has a police force of 53, of whom only three are black — has dominated the national headlines. It might seem like a far cry from our bustling East Coast Metropolis of Boston, but there are some who see lessons for us here in the events on the ground there.

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11:11 am
Fri August 15, 2014

The Boston Police Strike That Impacted Labor For Generations

A large crowd gathered in Scollay Square during the 1919 Boston Police Strike.
Boston Public Library

This week in 1919, Boston police voted to unionize. That vote led to a police strike that sparked riots, changed the lives of hundreds, and helped send Calvin Coolidge to the Oval Office.

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11:19 am
Thu August 14, 2014

Why The Boston Public Library Is Discarding Books

The reading room at the Boston Public Library.
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Brian Johnson

In the past few months, library-friends-group book sales, nonprofit internet libraries — even Amazon.com — have been flush with books that were, until recently, sitting on local Boston Public Library shelves. But why?

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10:38 am
Fri August 8, 2014

The Picnic That Turned Moby-Dick Into A Masterpiece

Illustration from an early edition of Moby-Dick.
Credit A. Burnham Shute

Chances are you’ve read it, or were supposed to read it, at some point — maybe your high-school English class or a survey of American literature in college.

And while the book, "Moby-Dick; or, The Whale" is named after the whale, Moby-Dick, the centerpiece of the great American novel is the deranged, obsessed man at the helm of the Pequod, Captain Ahab.

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11:13 am
Wed August 6, 2014

Market Basket Saga Shows Struggles, Benefits Of Family-Owned Grocers

Signs advertise produce prices at Johnny D's in Brighton Center.
Credit Edgar B. Herwick III / WGBH News

The embattled Market Basket supermarket chain is one of the country's largest private companies, ranked No. 127 on Forbes annual list. But like many grocery chains, it started more than a generation ago — as a single mom-and-pop shop. That got me wondering whether mom-and-pop shop's can still thrive in the grocery industry and whether there are benefits — and drawbacks — to being family owned and operated.

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3:43 pm
Fri August 1, 2014

Downtown Boston Freemason Lodge Holds Secrets — Even From The Masons

The Chamber of Reflection in the Grand Lodge, used by the York Rite.
Edgar B. Herwick III WGBH News

It all started at the Bunch of Grapes tavern — on what is now State Street in Boston, when a fellow named Henry Price gathered 17 men and established the first Grand Masonic Lodge in the New World.

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Local News
2:51 pm
Wed July 30, 2014

Underage Immigrant Wave: Separating Fact From Fiction

Demonstrators from opposing sides confront each other while being separated by Murrieta police officers, Friday, July 4, 2014, outside a U.S. Border Patrol station in Murrieta, Calif. Demonstrators on both sides of the immigration debate had gathered in Murrieta, Calif.
Credit (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The immigration debate that has gripped border states like Texas and Arizona for years has come to Massachusetts in recent days, following the news that Gov. Deval Patrick has offered to temporarily house up to 1,000 of the some 60,000 young migrants being held along the border in a state air base.

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Local News
4:20 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

Block Partners HealthCare Agreement, Say Antitrust Experts

Credit Flickr, jdlasica

The Partners HealthCare agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General came under fire this week by antitrust experts who are calling on a state judge to block the agreement, saying its unlikely to contain rising medical costs

A letter dated July 21 and signed by 21 national antitrust experts and health economists urges the judge to reconsider her support of the proposed settlement. BU economics professor Randall P. Ellis is among those who signed.

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12:18 pm
Fri July 25, 2014

This Week In History: The Boston Post Takes Down Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi, his wife and his mother on his porch in Lexington.
Courtesy Hammond Residential Real Estate

  Real Estate agents Jodi and Jean Winchester are walking me through a stately yellow stucco colonial revival mansion on a tranquil street in Lexington. There’s a perfectly manicured acre of land surrounding the estate. Heck, there’s even a carriage house.

And it belonged to Charles Ponzi, of the infamous Ponzi scheme.

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1:08 pm
Wed July 23, 2014

Big Brother Is Coming To Boston School Buses

Boston will begin using cameras on school buses this year.
Credit Photo Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This fall, there will be some new riders on Boston's school buses. 

Each of the Boston Public School systems’s 750 school buses will be fit with two audio capable cameras. One will record the road, the other will record the students. 

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5:00 am
Fri July 18, 2014

How Did The Largest Collection Of Hemingway's Writings End Up In Boston?

A bust of Ernest Hemingway.


Ernest Hemingway was born near Chicago and died in Idaho. He immortalized 1920s Paris and introduced the world to the running of the bulls in Pamplona. He hunted big game in Africa, caught marlin off the Florida Keys, and spent decades living, writing -- and drinking -- in Cuba. 

So, why is the world's largest collection of his personal writings is located at the JFK library in Boston?

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10:05 am
Wed July 16, 2014

'Lucky Few' Refugees Get To Resettle In Massachusetts

In this June 13, 2014 photo, Somali refugee Bollo Mohamed, 26, helps her daughter Malyun Mohamed, 5, with her shoes while dressing her for preschool at their apartment in Springfield, Mass. Bollo lived in a Kenyan refugee camp from 1992 until 2007 when she was relocated to Providence, R.I., before moving herself to Springfield.
Credit (AP Photo /Stephan Savoia)


There's much debate these days over how this country should handle the thousands of immigrants who come into the United States illegally, especially the unaccompanied children who come here from Central America via the U.S. Mexican border. But there are many people — refugees — who come to this country legally.

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8:31 am
Fri July 11, 2014

How 'Sex In A Box' Took America By Storm


By the time Neil W. Rabens actually received the patent for Twister in July of 1969, his invention had already been sold twice, and it was well on it's way to becoming an American pop-culture icon.

Rabens was a young commercial artist in the mid 1960s, when he was hired along with Chuck Foley to develop toys and games for a midwest design firm. One day Rabens came up with an innovative idea: What if we made a game where people were the pieces?

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