During an era more associated with the Wild West, a group of women in Cambridge made historic advances in the field of astronomy, discovering new stars and fundamental principles about how our universe works. In the beginning, they were treated as menial clerical workers and paid a fraction of what their male counterparts got. Only decades later did they win academic respect, earning advanced degrees and finally the title Professor. They were the Human Computers of the Harvard University Observatory.
Jesse Pomeroy was a Victorian era serial killer who stalked the streets of Boston. He predated Jack the Ripper by a decade, and the Boston Strangler by almost a century. At only 14 years old, he was known as the Boy Fiend, a child who tortured and killed his fellow children, becoming Boston’s youngest serial killer.
This week’s show profiles Angela and Ezra Heywood: writers, activists, free-love advocates, suffragists, socialists, labor reformers, and abolitionists who shocked the sensibilities of Victorian Boston.
During the Civil War, thousands of Confederate soldiers, diplomats, and politicians were imprisoned behind the walls of Fort Warren on Georges Island. Today, the fort is home to the only Confederate monument in Massachusetts, but not for much longer.
Early Boston aeronauts used balloons to perform scientific experiments, cross the English channel, take the first aerial photographs, and provide public entertainment. Whether by hot air or hydrogen, these pioneers made their way into the air, and into the history books.
The Skin Book was written by highwayman George Walton and dedicated to the only man to best him in combat. While he was a prisoner at Charlestown Penitentiary, Walton wrote a memoir. According to his wishes, after his death, the book was bound in Walton’s own skin and given to the man who defeated him. Today, this example of anthropodermic bibliopegy is a prized possession of the Boston Athenaeum.
Since 1651, Boston has had a legal responsibility to mark and measure its boundaries every few years. Despite advances in technology, the practice of “perambulating the bounds” means that someone has to go out and walk the town lines. This law is one of the oldest still on the books, but when was the last time Boston perambulated its bounds? Listen now!
When young Albert Tirrell killed his lover Maria Bickford on Beacon Hill, it sparked a scandal that rocked Victorian Boston in the 1840s. It was a tale of seduction, murder, and the unlikeliest of defenses. In the end, he would be found not guilty, in the first successful use of sleepwalking as a defense against murder.
We apologize for Nikki’s head cold, some rough cuts that resulted from editing out her sniffles, and the couple of sniffles that made it into the final cut.
Your humble hosts are traveling this week, trying to see the first total eclipse of our lifetimes. While we’re gone, listen to the story of the 1806 eclipse, the first total eclipse seen in Boston after European colonization.