May 5, 2022

Karen Weintraub and Michael Kuchta

Harvard Book Store's virtual event series welcomes reporter and author KAREN WEINTRAUB and architect MICHAEL KUCHTA for a discussion of their co-authored book Born in Cambridge: 400 Years of Ideas and Innovators.


Cambridge, Massachusetts is a city of “firsts”: the first college in the English colonies, the first two-way long-distance call, the first legal same-sex marriage. In 1632, Anne Bradstreet, living in what is now Harvard Square, wrote one of the first published poems in British North America, and in 1959, Cambridge-based Carter’s Ink marketed the first yellow Hi-liter. W.E.B. Du Bois, Julia Child, Yo-Yo Ma, and Noam Chomsky all lived or worked in Cambridge at various points in their lives. Born in Cambridge tells these stories and many others, chronicling cultural icons, influential ideas, and world-changing innovations that all came from one city of modest size across the Charles River from Boston. Nearly 200 illustrations connect stories to Cambridge locations.

Cambridge is famous for being home to MIT and Harvard, and these institutions play a leading role in many of these stories—the development of microwave radar, the invention of napalm, and Robert Lowell’s poetry workshop, for example. But many have no academic connection, including Junior Mints, Mount Auburn Cemetery (the first garden cemetery), and the public radio show Car Talk. It’s clear that Cambridge has not only a genius for invention but also a genius for reinvention, and authors Karen Weintraub and Michael Kuchta consider larger lessons from Cambridge’s success stories—about urbanism, the roots of innovation, and nurturing the next generation of good ideas.

About Author(s)

Karen Weintraub is a journalist, now working as health reporter at USA Today. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington PostScientific American, and STAT, and she is the coauthor of The Autism Revolution and Fast Minds.

Michael Kuchta is an architect and campus planner.