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Matthew Wills

Matthew Wills has advanced degrees in library science and film studies and is lapsed in both fields. He has published in Poetry, Huffington Post, and Nature Conservancy Magazine, among other places, and blogs regularly about urban natural history at matthewwills.com.

Bread Turkey roasted baked

Baking Vs. Roasting

We cook bread, meat, and vegetables much the same way: in our ovens. So why do we say we "bake" bread, but we "roast" meat and veggies?
Nuremberg locusts

The Long-Lost Locust

The 1874 locust swarm was estimated to be twice the square mileage of the state of Colorado. Why don't locusts swarm anymore?
Anna May Wong

Hollywood’s Asian American Heroes

Asian American detectives played by actors Anna May Wong and Keye Luke had a minor but notable place in 1930s and 40s Hollywood.
fingerprint crime

Fingerprints and Crime

The first criminal conviction based on fingerprint evidence took place in Argentina on 1892, thanks to a police official inspired by eugenics.
Susan Fenimore Cooper bluebird

Susan Fenimore Cooper, Forgotten Naturalist

Susan Fenimore Cooper, known as her father James Fenimore Cooper's secretary, is now being recognized as one of the nation's first environmentalists.
Atom earth

Atoms for… Peace?

Iran's nuclear program is in the news, again. But what's the backstory on how the country went nuclear in the first place?
John Snow

John Snow and the Birth of Epidemiology

Even though this physician pre-dated germ theory, he was able to track a London outbreak of cholera to one particular water pump.
Mark Twain

Was Mark Twain a Con Man?

A man named Samuel Clemens received funds from the radical abolitionist Boston Vigilance Committee in 1854. It may have been Mark Twain, pulling a prank.
Pioneer Mother sculpture

How to Memorialize Motherhood

Every statue tells a story, often long forgotten. San Francisco's Pioneer Mother Monument in Golden Gate Park was greeted with disappointed by the woman who originated it.
John Clare

What This 19th-Century Poet Knew About the Future

The Anthropocene requires a new history to explain how humans transform the planet. The work of poet John Clare is a good place to start.
Mary Queen of Scots

The Literary Propaganda Campaign Against Mary, Queen of Scots

May of 1568 was a fateful month for Mary, Queen of Scots. She managed to escape prison, but only to be being defeated in battle soon after. Then she made the fateful decision to run to England.
Reconstruction Richmond

Revisiting Reconstruction

Reconstruction is one of the least known periods of American history, and much of what people think they know about may be wrong.
Privatization

The Roots of Privatization

The great turn towards privatization is usually thought to have begun in the 1970s, with Chile's dictatorial regime, but its roots go back further than this.
Charles Boycott

Boycotting Captain Boycott

There were boycotts before the word was coined in the 1880s, but ever since then they've always been called after the experience of Captain Charles Boycott.
Zines

Before Blogs, There Were Zines

Zines haven't completely disappeared in the internet age, but the photocopier-powered DIY publishing phenomenon has certainly entered history by now.
Twilight Zone spiral

Why We Still Love The Twilight Zone

Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone stood out in the "vast wasteland" of television in the early 1960s and still resonates today.
Nero bust: Nero may have poisoned Britannicus, Claudius's son

Poisoning like the Romans

The Romans certainly have a reputation for using poisons, but what do we really know about this form of assassination in the classical era?
April Fools kid Denmark

The Completely True History of April Fools’ Day

The door to spring is guarded by fools, but that's ok, because they're not all that serious. And everybody knows the password: April Fools!
Frig goddess

Should We Thank Frig it’s Friday?

The Anglo-Saxon goddess Frig has often been cited as the origin of the word Friday, but one scholar questions whether such a deity ever existed.
early microscopes

The Evolution of the Microscope

The first compound microscopes date to 1590, but it was the Dutch Antony Van Leeuwenhoek in the mid-seventeenth century who first used them to make discoveries.
Alaskan woman and child

Alaska’s Unique Civil Rights Struggle

A generation before Rosa Parks, a young Eskimo-American woman was arrested for sitting in the "whites only" section of a Nome, Alaska move theater.
Stalin poster

What Do We Really Know About Joseph Stalin?

It took three more decades of Soviet rule before the archives dealing with Stalin and his times could be explored. And then the doors were shut again.
Beatles hair 1963

The High School Hair Wars of the 1960s

Following the introduction of the mop top by the Beatles, the battle over how long school boys could wear their hair in the 1960s and 1970s went to the courts again and again.
Peter Rabbit Beatrix Potter

The Other Side of Beatrix Potter

Beatrix Potter biography covers a lot more than than just cute bunnies getting into trouble in mean old Mr. McGregor's farm, not that there's anything wrong with that.
Horsepower

Why We Still Use “Horsepower”

Horses were omnipresent in the West until only a few generations ago, but then they were replaced by machines and disappeared from our streets as well as our consciousness.