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    Good News in History, March 7

    100 years ago today, the Robert Frost poem Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening was published in The New Republic. Ending with the famous line “And miles to go before I sleep,” the poem was Frost’s favorite, and the one he called his “best bid for remembrance.” Frost said he wrote the verses based on a difficult Christmas that he experienced when on December 22nd, he realized that he wouldn’t be able to afford Christmas presents for his family. READ the poem… (1923)


    Via Dartmouth College Library

    From Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac: “Frost wasn’t the most successful farmer, but he scrounged up some produce from his farm, hitched up his horse, and took a wagon into town to try and sell enough produce to buy some gifts. He couldn’t sell a single thing, and as evening came and it began to snow, he had to head home. He was almost home when he became overwhelmed with the shame of telling his family about his failure, and as if it sensed his mood, the horse stopped, and Frost cried.

    He recalls he ‘bawled like a baby.’ Eventually, the horse jingled its bells, and Frost collected himself and headed back home to his family. His daughter Lesley agreed that this was the inspiration for the poem, and said that she remembered the horse, whose name was Eunice, and that her father told her: ‘A man has as much right as a woman to a good cry now and again. The snow gave me shelter; the horse understood and gave me the time.’”

    Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening:

    Whose woods these are I think I know.
    His house is in the village though;
    He will not see me stopping here
    To watch his woods fill up with snow.

    My little horse must think it queer
    To stop without a farmhouse near
    Between the woods and frozen lake
    The darkest evening of the year.

    He gives his harness bells a shake
    To ask if there is some mistake.
    The only other sound’s the sweep
    Of easy wind and downy flake.

    The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep.

    MORE Good News on this Day:

    • Maurice Ravel, the noted French composer, was born (1875)
    • The great inventor John Frederick William Herschel, who was a mathematician, astronomer, chemist, and experimental photographer who invented the blueprint, was born in the town of Slough, England (1792)
    • The first 78 rpm jazz record was released by Original Dixieland Jazz Band for the Victor Talking Machine Company with the A-side ‘Dixie Jazz Band One Step’ (1917)
    • The first successful trans-Atlantic radio-telephone conversation took place, between New York City and London (1926)
    • Golda Meir was elected as the first female Prime Minister of Israel (1969)
    • Sunil Gavaskar became the first cricket batsman to score 10,000 Test runs (1987)
    • The first democratically elected Palestinian parliament was formed (1996)
    • A New Hampshire ceremony ratified Gene Robinson as the first openly gay Episcopal bishop (2004)
    • A mass assembly of Kuwaitis marched in support of voting rights for women outside government center (2005)
    • Kathryn Bigelow became the first female to win an Academy Award for Best Director for her film, Hurt Locker, which also won best picture, about a bomb disposal team during the Iraq War (2010)

    61 years ago today, the Royal College of Physicians released “Smoking and Health,” the first collection of data warning about the dangers of cigarette smoking. Released by Sir Robert Platt, it came as a watershed moment in the history of public health policy, notably not merely for broadcasting the first information of the dangers of smoking, but also for using data collection to present medical recommendations based on risk assessments, as a report that came directly from physicians and researchers to the public at large, and informing the formation of the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on smoking in the U.S.

    From the Stanford Research into the Impact of Tobacco Advertising. Fair Use.

    Sir Robert Platt, President of the College, was chosen as part of a committee in 1959 to head up an investigation into smoking. By May of that year, 30,000 copies of Smoking and Health had already been sold in the U.S., a vital development, considering how pervasive smoking advertisements had become. The report found…

    “The benefits of smoking are almost entirely psychological and social. It may help some people to avoid obesity. There is no reason to suppose that smoking prevents neurosis.”

    “Cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis, and probably contributes to the development of coronary heart disease and various other less common diseases. It delays healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers.”

    Sir Robert Baron of Platt, President of the Royal College of Physicians. Fair Use.

    “The risks of smoking to the individual are calculated from death rates in relation to smoking habits among British doctors. The chance of dying in the next ten years for a man aged 35 who is a heavy cigarette smoker is 1 in 23, whereas the risk for a non-smoker is only 1 in 90. Only 15% (one in six) of men this age who are non-smokers but 33% (one in three) of heavy smokers will die before the age of 65. Not all this difference in expectation of life is attributable to smoking.” (1962)

    147 years ago today, Alexander Graham Bell received a U.S. patent for the telephone. The Scottish-born inventor, scientist, and engineer credited with inventing the first practical telephone, also co-founded the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) nine years later.

    Bell’s father, grandfather, and brother had all been associated with work on elocution and speech—and both his mother and wife were deaf—profoundly influencing Bell’s life’s work. His research on hearing and speech led him to experiment with hearing devices which eventually culminated in his invention, the telephone. (1876)

    174 years ago today, the renowned American botanist and horticultural pioneer, Luther Burbank, who developed more than 800 strains and varieties of plants, was born. He created the Shasta Daisy, the Delicious Apple, and the Russet Potato, which he invented to be resistant to the blight that wiped out crops throughout Europe and caused the devastating Irish potato famine.

    Burbank grew up on a farm and only received a high school education in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He used his inheritance to buy land and eventually move to Santa Rosa, California. He established a greenhouse, nursery, and experimental fields where he conducted crossbreeding experiments on plants, inspired by Charles Darwin’s The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication.

    Burbank became famous for his plant catalogs and satisfied customers who grew his Santa Rosa plums, Flaming Gold nectarines, Freestone Peaches, the White Blackberry, and more. The Santa Rosa property is now open to the public as a city park, The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. The town celebrated his 170th birthday in 2019 by planting a plum tree and 170 shasta daisies. (1849)

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