Carrie Buck was in her third year at the State Colony for Epileptics and Feeble-Minded in Lynchburg, Virginia, when the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state’s right to sterilize her. Seventeen at the time she had been institutionalized, the child of a feeble-minded mother and the mother to an illegitimate daughter of her own, Buck had refused to submit to sterilization, and the case had finally made its way to the nation’s highest court.
A judge, the old saw goes, is a lawyer who knew a governor (or a President or a senator). In most states, a judge is a lawyer who knows how to attract voters. Whatever the judge’s secret, the contempt underlying that catchphrase suggests the palpable disdain that tints our view of the whole legal system. We speak with scorn of the “courthouse gang,” meaning the petty politicians who loiter in the temple of justice. We like to think of judges as above all that, yet we continue to regard the administration of justice as a mere extension of politics.Read more »
He was born in 1841, in a Boston that took its water from backyard wells and its light from whale-oil lamps. He died ninety-four years later in a nation that the army pilot James Doolittle had just crossed in twelve hours. Between the birth and the death came a career and a renown few achieve, and thirty years of serving as one of the most brilliant, influential, and revered Justices of the Supreme Court.Read more »
WHEN HIPPOCRATES wrote in the fifth century B.C. that “he who would learn surgery should join an army and follow it,” he illuminated the central irony of military medicine. Destructive as war is, it makes possible quantum leaps in the art of healing. And it is the surgeon who benefits most directly: war has been described as an “epidemic of trauma,” and the vast supply of wounded men provides opportunities for experimentation and innovation unthinkable in a world at peace.Read more »
THROUGHOUT MOST of the last century, very few Americans could agree on the time of day. Every town kept its own time. A pocket diary for the year 1873 contains two tables, one showing the difference in time between Boston and other cities, the second giving the time in other cities when it was noon in New York. With a little calculating, a Boston salesman bound for St.Read more »
THE YEAR IS 1890 and the place Cambridge, Massachusetts. On one of the streets leading northeast along the Harvard Yard a man in early middle age—he is, in fact, fortyeight years old, of slight build and medium height but vigorous motion—is walking with a pair of students, boy and girl, who have followed him out of his class in experimental psychology. His face is bearded and his eyes bright blue, and his features reflect the rapidity of his thought. He is William James, the scientist and philosopher.Read more »
A little group of American men of affairs and letters met along with their ladies on the morning of August 5, 1850, to hike up Monument Mountain, one of the more prominent features of the landscape surrounding Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The intention was purely social, and socially the day proved a smashing success, leading five of the ten hikers to record the event in letters, journals, articles, and books. For two of them, however, the climb was the beginning of one of the strangest episodes in the history of American literature.Read more »
Catherine Drinker Bowen—historian, musician, and most of all biographer—said in our sister magazine, HORIZON , in an article written shortly before her death, that all of her biographical heroes were possessed by a sense of urgency.Read more »