Oct. 28, 1998

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

by John Keats


Today's Reading: "On the Grasshopper and Cricket" by John Keats.

It's the anniversary of PR OHIBITION. Congress passed the Volstead Act on October 28, 1919, which provided for the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution. That was known as the Prohibition Amendment, and it forbade the "manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors" in the U.S. "intoxicating" defined as anything containing more than one-half of one percent of alcohol.

It's JONAS SALK's birthday, 1914, New York City, developer of the polio vaccine. In 1947 when he was 33 years old, he took over the University of Pittsburgh's Virus Research Lab, and began his polio research there. At that time the disease was striking about 58,000 Americans a year, killing 3,000. Salk's research focused on injecting dead polio cells into the body to initiate an immune response; others who came after him, like Albert Sabin, used live polio cells in an oral vaccine. Salk began testing the vaccine on himself and his family, then on polio patients, and finally on a group of 2 million school children. In April, 1955 he announced the vaccine was safe and effective. Within six years new polio cases were down to a 1,000 a year.

It's the birthday in 1912, Hampton, England of SIR RICHARD DOLL, the medical researcher who in 1952 linked cigarette smoking to lung cancer. Though he didn't find that smoking actually causes cancer, he did establish the link between the number of cigarettes smoked to the increased risk of cancer.

It's the birthday of the English satirist EVELYN WAUGH, 1903, London. He started out as a teacher, and in his first book, the 1928 Decline and Fall, said, "Anyone who has been to an English public school will always feel comparatively at home in a prison." Waugh traveled all his life and wrote travel books and biographies, but he's best known for his novels, particularly the 1945 Brideshead Revisited, the story of the Marchmain family who, like Waugh, converted to Roman Catholicism.

It's the anniversary of the STATUE OF LIBERTY, dedicated in 1886, on Liberty Island in the Upper Bay of New York harbor. Her full name is Liberty Enlightening the World, and she stands 151 feet tall without the pedestal. The statue was a gift from France.

It's the anniversary of HARVARD UNIVERSITY, 1636. The Court of Massachusetts founded it 16 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth. At its two-year anniversary the school was given 400 books from the estate of clergyman John Harvard. He also gave about $1,400, which was nearly twice the school's first-year budget, so it was named after him. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, and now has about 18,000 students. Six U.S. presidents John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Theodore and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy graduated from Harvard.

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  • “Writers end up writing stories—or rather, stories' shadows—and they're grateful if they can, but it is not enough. Nothing the writer can do is ever enough” —Joy Williams
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