Mar. 20, 2002

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost


Poem: "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening," by Robert Frost.

It's the birthday of Canadian novelist and essayist Hugh Maclennan, born in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (1907). His first novel, Barometer Rising (1941), was about the explosion of a munitions ship that destroyed part of the city of Halifax in 1917.

It's the birthday of psychologist B(urrhus) F(redric) Skinner, born in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (1904). Known as the father of "behaviorism," he was the inventor of the "Skinner Box." He also invented what his critics called his "Baby Box," but which Skinner called his "Baby Tender," intended to help him and his wife raise their second child, Deborah. It was a controlled environment about twice the size of a bathtub, with soundproof walls and plenty of room, Skinner said, for exercise and toys. It was equipped with a system of sheets on rollers that could be turned to replace the soiled linens. He was well known for his books Walden Two (1961) and Beyond Freedom and Dignity (1971). B. F. Skinner, who said, "Education is what survives when what has been learnt has been forgotten."

On this day in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was published. Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin in response to the "Fugitive Slave Act" of 1850 which was more widely read than any book of its time except the Bible.

It's the birthday of playwright Henrik Ibsen, born in Skien, in southern Norway (1828). He wrote his greatest works during 27 years of voluntary exile in Rome, Dresden, and Munich: A Doll's House (1879), Peer Gynt (1866-7), Ghosts (1881), The Wild Duck (1884), and The Master-Builder (1892).

It's the birthday of the Roman poet Ovid (Publius Ovidius Naso), born in what is now Sulmona, Italy (43 B.C.). As a member of the Roman aristocracy, Ovid was expected to lead a career in politics, but he preferred poetry. He wrote the tragedy Medea, three volumes of poetry collectively called The Art of Love, and his epic poem Metamorphoses. He had an affair with Emperor Augustus' granddaughter, and was exiled to a town on the Black Sea. During his exile he wrote his famous Elegies of Despair.

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