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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.

Crispus Attucks Needs No Introduction. Or Does He? 

The African American Patriot, who died in the Boston Massacre, was erased from visual history. Black abolitionists revived his memory.
Hernan Cortes, Spanish Conquistador meeting Moctezuma II Aztec Emperor

The Mexica Didn’t Believe the Conquistadors Were Gods

The indigenous Mexica (Aztec) people were overwhelmed by a superior technological force ruthlessly used against them.
Thick Billed Parrots

The Thick-Billed Parrot Is Not Extinct–Not Yet

But one hasn't been seen in the U.S. since 1995, not long after the end of the last reintroduction program.
Mexican film star Raquel Torres, circa 1930

La Pelona: The Hispanic-American Flapper

Flapperismo was no more appreciated by Hispanic guardians of traditional femininity than it was by Anglo-American ones.
An unknown paleontologist, 1860

The Dinosaur Bone Wars

1877 was a banner year for American dinosaurs: three major finds in the West turned the region into a "paleontologist's El Dorado."
Peasants Before Their House by Louis Le Nain

Quiet Struggle Means Resistance without Protest

A lone resister is easy to take down, but there is safety in numbers, in conspiracies of silence, in refusals to testify against one's neighbors.
Photograph: Donald Trump addresses his impeachment after learning how the vote in the House was divided during a Merry Christmas Rally at the Kellogg Arena on December 18, 2019 in Battle Creek, Michigan. 

Source: Getty

What Does It Take to Survive Impeachment?

A look at impeachment proceedings in foreign nations sheds light on when a sitting president is likely to remain in office.
Anne and Bernard Spitzer Hall of Human Origins, American Museum of Natural History, Upper West Side, New York, NY

Sewing Saved Us from a “Cold Snap” 13 Thousand Years Ago

Sewing a full winter outfit from animal hides took 105 hours. And we needed lots of them to survive the Younger Dryas Cold Event.
Parmelia Lichen

Lichens as Sensors for Air Pollution

Lichens often go unnoticed, living on the ground, on tree trunks, or on rocks. They're hearty, but remarkably sensitive to air pollution.
An illustration by James Gillray, 1807

Vulgarity: An Alternative Language of the People

Was Francis Grose's Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue the font of all popular culture studies?
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cigar_box_Peggy_O%27neal.jpg

The Mrs. Eaton Affair

A story of petticoats and power.
A Christmas Carol

Pirating Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in the 1840s

When Parley's Illuminated Library published a pirated version of A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens decided he had had enough.
Portrait of Alexander von Humboldt by Friedrich Georg Weitsch

Who Was Alexander von Humboldt?

Remembering the work of the great naturalist Alexander von Humboldt, on the 250th anniversary of his birth.
Members of the Oneida Community

The Oneida Community Moves to the OC

The Oneida Community's Christian form of collectivism was transported to California in the 1880s, when the original Oneida Community fell apart.
An unknown woman from the city of Grodno, circa 1900

Tsarist Russia’s Feminist Intelligentsia

In the context of Russia's patriarchal autocracy, its intelligentsia was surprisingly feminist, as Vera Podorovskaya's life illustrates.
Three reindeer running through snow

The Reindeer Games

In 1907, the U.S. Reindeer Service was organized as part of an effort to domesticate the animals...and Inupiat Eskimos.
Several lab mice in a container

An Epidemic of Retractions

Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis's new book, Fraud in the Lab, offers some tough love for the scientific community.
Piazza San Marco in Venice, November 4, 1966

The Highest Flood in Italy This Century

Recent flooding in Venice has revived memories of a record-setting 1966 flood, which sparked an international rescue program for art and architecture.
Franz Boas

The Life and Times of Franz Boas

The founder of cultural anthropology, Franz Boas challenged the reigning notions of race and culture.
A moose skeleton

America, Where the Dogs Don’t Bark and the Birds Don’t Sing

The Comte de Buffon's thirty-six volume Natural History claimed that America was a land of degeneracy. That enraged Thomas Jefferson.
Frank Kameny

The Lavender Scare

In 1950, the U.S. State Department fired 91 employees because they were homosexual or suspected of being homosexual.
Pisco Sour Cocktail

Sour Grapes: The Pisco War

Peru and Chile both produce the grape brandy called pisco, and they both consider it their national drink.
A hand holding a jar of Nutella in front of an illustrated hazelnut plant

Everything You Wanted to Know about Hazelnuts but Were Afraid to Ask

For one thing, there are several species of hazelnuts, including a couple native to North America.
Cartoon showing police brutality against the match makers' demonstration, 1871

The Origins of the Police

Sir Robert Peel is popularly credited with the formation of the first modern municipal police force. But the Thames River Police did it first.