Campus & Community

This month in Harvard history

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Nov. 6, 1770 — Rumblings of Revolution: Joseph Avery, Class of 1771, orates on “Oppression and Tyranny” before the Speaking Club.

Nov. 23, 1849 — Dr. George Parkman disappears at the Medical School in one of the most famous murder cases in Harvard history. Earlier, Parkman has lent money to colleague Dr. John White Webster. To secure the loan, Webster gives Parkman a mortgage on his personal property, including a valuable collection of minerals. When Parkman learns that Webster has backed another loan with the same collection, he begins relentlessly pursuing Webster to collect the debt.

A week after the disappearance, a suspicious janitor breaks through a brick vault below Webster’s lab and finds human body parts, which the authorities soon discover all around the lab. Found guilty of first-degree murder, Webster belatedly confesses and appeals for clemency, but is hanged on Aug. 30, 1850. Parkman’s widow leads a fund drive to support Webster’s wife and children.

Nov. 24, 1873 — Charles Sprague Sargent officially begins a 54-year term as first Director of the Arnold Arboretum (est. 1872). Sargent soon enlists the aid of pioneering landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted — then busy designing the Boston park system — to help him lay out the grounds.

— From the Harvard Historical Calendar, a database compiled by Marvin Hightower