End music: Rabbit Hole, by Emma Wallace
Frances Glessner Less was a woman of unyielding determination and creative energy who used everything at her disposal (invcluding a vast inheritance) for both the common good and to further science in the field we now know as forensic Medicine.
Frances Lee was born into a very wealthy family on March 25, 1878, in Chicago, Illinois. Her father’s position as a founding executive (at the company that would eventually become International Harvester) funded the family’s lavish life in both Chicago and at their summer home called The Rocks, in New Hampshire. Her mother was an intellectually curious member of Chicago society who put her efforts not only into the arts (helping found the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, for instance) but also in assisting her two children to pursue their own interests.
Frances’ brief marriage resulted in three children, but her interest in medicine, science, law enforcement, and various crafts converged to forge her legacy when she put her everything into helping found the Department of Legal Medicine (the forerunner to forensic science) at Harvard University. She would go on to not only personally build a library for the college in this field, but to spread the science of it into communities all across the United States with lectures and twice-annual seminars for law enforcement personnel beginning in the 1940s
At these seminars, which she organized and ran, she crafted exquisitely detailed, miniature crime dioramas for the attendees to sharpen their skills in detective work and expand their knowledge of the science of death. Called the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, they aren’t macabre dollhouses, they are highly detailed learning tools…and they’re still in use today.
Frances Glessner Lee, at the age of 83, died on January 27, 1962 at her home. She’s buried in the Maple Street Cemetary in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.
Time Travel With The History Chicks
The Rocks in Bethlehem NH...the perfect place to buy your Christmas tree (and hike the trails, take classes, and maybe have a wedding. To learn more about the fire and restoration projects since, visit THE ROCKS.
Harvard Associates in Police Science is still an active organization that holds an annual Frances Glessner Lee Homicide Investigation seminar.
Frances is mentioned on the Harvard Medical School History website in regard to the Nutshell Studies and the Legal Medicine department…but not as boldly as we would like. Maybe this was an artifact from her “behind the scenes days” because it couldn’t possibly be an intentional slight…could it?
The story about the discovery of Nutshell #20 on NPR.
Want to learn about the history of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra?
Intrigued by the work of the Body Farm? It’s for science and we think Frances would approve!
We’re pretty excited to see miniatures around the world! The Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago has Beckett’s favorite, Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, then there’s Queen Mary’s at Windsor , the Thorne Miniatures at the Chicago Art Institute, and an entire museum dedicated to miniatures and toys in Kansas City, The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures.
Traveling through Kansas? Maybe you should stop at the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things?
And a history that only makes sense after you listen to the episode but we love a good Rabbit Hole: History of Coca-Cola.
Season 17, episode 14 of NCIS has it all: Nutshell-style dioramas, mentions of Frances, an involved podcast audience…okay, that’s all it has but, you know, entertaining. Catch it wherever you watch that long-running show.
The documentary, Of Dolls and Murder, is on YouTube, but it requires permissions to watch it, so you can search for it yourself over there.
CBS Sunday Morning’s coverage of the showing of the Nutshell studies:
Break music: The Banks of Green Willow, by George Butterworth; end music, Victim of Crime, by Heifervescent used with permission, ilicense Music.
In mid-September, a group of fifty travelers, two podcast hosts, and two travel organizers converged on London with the goal of standing together where history happened. Goal achieved and far exceeded!
We (the two aforementioned podcast hosts) wanted to hear from the travelers themselves about their journey, so we’ve invited them to help create this episode. You’ll hear tales of art, theater, adventure, side-quests, and lots of history– but perhaps the greatest experiences for all of the travelers were the friendships made along the way.
Laura Hart, of Like Minds Travel, had carefully planned this adventure to hit places that we have talked about on previous episodes, as well as leaving a bit of time each day for people to head out on side-quests and do things that were special to them. Thanks to technology, the entire group had met virtually long before Day One and planned these excursions together.
“Anyone want to visit the Churchill War Rooms?” someone would ask in our WhatsApp group. Next thing we knew, the side quest had been planned, people had signed up, and tickets were purchased. Lather, rinse, repeat.
It was a glorious thing to watch happen and a more glorious thing to experience.
Here are some of the highlights of our Field Trip, but listen to the episode for more details from the people who lived them!
Stay tuned for announcements in the near future about Field Trips for 2024!
We’re making some changes behind the scenes, cleaning things up and, for the most part, you won’t even know how busy we are with one exception:
We have to swap podcast players on every shownote we have on this website and it’s going to take us a bit. If the episode that you’re trying to play ON THIS SITE ONLY isn’t working, it just means we haven’t gotten there yet, but we will!
There will be no interruption of our episodes on most podcatchers like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, CastBox, Google Podcasts, Podcast Addict…etc. (you get the point.) The only place that we are no longer available is Wondery+ (and if you’re one of the very few who listened there, we’re very sorry about that!)
Beckett and Susan