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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.

Orchids in a Wardian Case

The Accidental Invention of Terrariums

Victorian London became obsessed with Ward's cases, which protected plants from the city's toxic pollution -- and piqued peoples' imaginations.
An illustration from War of the Worlds

What The War of the Worlds Had to Do with Tasmania

H.G. Wells's famous science fiction novel imagines what would happen if Martians did to Great Britain what Europeans did to Tasmania.
Richard Attenborough, William Goldman and Joe Levine, 1975

William Goldman and the Mystery of Screenwriting

Authorship of Hollywood screenplays is often a complicated matter. But William Goldman was truly a writer in Hollywood.
The Loch Ness Monster swimming in the lake

Nessiteras rhombopteryx: The Loch Ness Monster

Why the Loch Ness Monster has a scientific binomial.
Detail from an 1846 map of Nantucket

The Little-Known Nantucket-British Deal of 1814

Remembering a strange chapter of history when Nantucket allied itself with Great Britain.
Cranberries in a strainer

Seven Things You Might Not Know About Cranberries

They're red, tart, and mostly eaten at Thanksgiving. Love them or hate them, here are seven things you might not have known about the humble cranberry.
Constantine Samuel Rafinesque

The Raffish and Radical Constantine Samuel Rafinesque

Constantine Samuel Rafinesque was an adventuring naturalist who named 2,700 genera and wrote about evolution before Darwin. Why has he been forgotten?
Illustrated portrait of Russian astronaut Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova and the American Imagination

Remembering the Russian cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, and how she challenged American stereotypes.
Then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly covering the 2012 Democratic National Convention

100 Years of Fox News

When it began as Fox-Movietone News, the company was known for appealing to viewer's tastes by leaving out upsetting news, including the rise of fascism.
Painting by Jozef Czapski

Painter, Proust Scholar, P.O.W.

Józef Czapski was a painter, writer, and Proust scholar -- as well as one of the few Polish military officers not executed by the Soviet Union in 1940.
U.S. World War II anti-venereal disease poster

When America Incarcerated “Promiscuous” Women

From WWI to the 1950s, the "American Plan" rounded up sexually-active women and quarantined them, supposedly to protect soldiers from venereal disease.
Nosferatu

Marxferatu: Teaching Marx with Vampires

For a younger generation trying to understand Marxism, the best way in may be: vampirism.
The Hobet mine in West Virginia taken by NASA LANDSAT in 2009

When Mining Destroys Historical Cemeteries

Mountain top removal mining brings with it total ecosystem destruction. It also erases history by destroying historic mountain cemeteries.
T. B. Welch, engraver (from a daguerrotype) - William G. Brownlow, The Great Iron Wheel Examined; or Its False Spokes Extracted, and An Exhibition of Elder Graves, Its Builder

William Gannaway Brownlow, the Fighting Parson of Tennessee

The controversial politician William Gannaway Brownlow shepherded Tennessee's re-admission to the Union. It was the first state of the Confederacy to do so.
Child getting a vaccine

Who Chooses Not to Vaccinate Their Children?

Vaccinations have always been political. But in this day and age, why do certain subsets of well-off parents choose not to vaccinate their children?
"The Macaroni. A real Character at the late Masquerade", mezzotint by Philip Dawe, 1773

The Gender-Bending Style of Yankee Doodle’s Macaroni

The outlandish "macaroni" style of 18th-century England blurred the boundaries of gender, as well as class and nationality.
krazy kat comic

Krazy Kat’s Complex Relationship with Race

Behind the slapstick antics in this beloved comic strip simmered ambivalence about color and race.
Los Angeles concrete

The Lost Paradise of Los Angeles

Los Angeles's bountiful agricultural land was devoured by runaway suburbanization, a process which began long before the post-war era.
francis willughby crows

The First True Ornithologist

Though he was once dismissed as a dilettante, naturalist Francis Willughby was in fact part of the vanguard of observation-based modern science.
Neville Chamberlain holding the paper containing the resolution to commit to peaceful methods signed by both Hitler and himself on his return from Munich, 1938

Reconsidering Appeasement

After 1938's Munich Agreement, "appeasement" became a dirty word in international relations. But scholars argue that appeasement can be a useful tool.
puritan execution

Puritan True Crime

Cotton Mather and other 17th-century American writers created a genre all their own: Puritan gallows literature, which both terrified and edified.
Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein, Teacher

Leonard Bernstein was a famous composer, conductor, and pianist. But by some accounts, his favorite accomplishment was teaching children about music.
Empress Maria Theresia of Austria

When a Woman Was “King”

Maria Theresa, the King of Hungary, ruled over the "accidental" Austro-Hungarian Empire, overseeing social, administrative, fiscal, and religious reforms.
Oberlin College's Memorial Arch

A Progressive College’s Complicated Relationship with Race

Oberlin College was founded by religious idealists committed to abolitionism and integration. Then public attitudes began to shift.
Hannah Cullwick

The Bizarre Victorian Diaries of Cullwick and Munby

Arthur Munby was an upper-class man of letters who "collected" working class women, including his servant Hannah Cullwick, whom he married in 1873.