WEST—Malcolm X. Sitting Bull. Socrates. Amelia Earhart. Frederick Douglass.
You probably know their names, but what do you really know about them? Do you know where they were born? Why do we remember them?
If doctors Michael Harwood and Adrian Hamburger have anything to do with it, you’ll learn the answers to those questions – along with much more meaningful information about the famous four, plus 45 more – and be able to retain your newfound knowledge for a long time. time.
Harwood, a Westerly-based dermatologist, and Hamburger, who ran Westerly Hospital’s pain management department for many years, recently published a book called “Brain Spark: What Every Kid Deserves to Know About… .Famous People”.
The 130-page book includes a collection of short essays on such beloved historical figures as Diana, the Princess of Wales and Nelson Mandela; as hated as Osama bin Laden and Joseph McCarthy; and as fascinating as Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Marie Antoinette.
“Brain Spark” began as something of a pandemic project for the pair, who are both fathers of sons and shared offices on Wells Street.
In this age of information overload, said Harwood, a 1997 Westerly High School graduate who took part in “Jeopardy!” in 2019, it may seem counterintuitive to “hoard more knowledge,” but doctors disagree.
In their introduction, titled “How to Develop a Brilliant Mind!” they write, “As parents and doctors, we have noticed that young adults are falling behind in terms of knowledge accumulation, while schools remain focused on reading comprehension and STEM.”
Often, Harwood said, when certain names or topics came up during dinner conversations, he noticed that his boys were unfamiliar or unaware of the people, places and things he thought should be common knowledge.
Harwood, a big fan of ‘The Simpsons,’ the popular TV series that parodies American culture and society, said he also noticed his sons, Jacob, 11, and Sam, 8, didn’t know a lot of the references, and he wanted to fix it.
Hamburger, who has two teenage sons — Will, 16, and Kurt, 13 — had similar experiences with his boys.
“They said they often felt left out of adult conversations,” Hamburger said. “They were saying things like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”
“We didn’t want them to feel left out,” he added, calling the book a “passion project.”
“When the kids were home [during the pandemic,] I started writing essays,” said Harwood, who is married to Vanessa Ravenelle Harwood, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Rhode Island. “An essay a day about a famous person.”
He told Hamburger what he was doing and the two brainstormed and got to work.
Their goal is to “cultivate the growing mind by introducing significant people, concepts, places, and events,” they write in the introduction.
“Not only is the accumulation of knowledge essential to success in an increasingly competitive world,” they write, “it also expands all of our horizons.”
Harwood’s son, Jacob, said he was fascinated by the people his father and Hamburger chose.
He said he liked to read about Steve Jobs, but was really intrigued by the people his father called “infamous”. People like Osama bin Laden, Che Guevara, Al Capone, Genghis Khan and Idi Amin.
“It’s okay to be a little worldly,” Harwood said with a light laugh.
The two fathers said they are planning a series of ‘Brain Sparks’ and have already completed a second with plans for others to include topics such as cultural icons, money and finance, and geography. and history, all set to be released this year.
Hamburger, who recently retired and moved to Florida with his wife, Nikki, and their sons, said he and Harwood received “quite a few comments” from readers suggesting their book shouldn’t be limited to a younger audience.
Older people are also buying and reading the book, Hamburger said, “and enjoying it as well…they feel it’s a great resource for them as they get older and forget some things.”
The book includes questions at the end of each essay and important geographic locations are highlighted in bold.
“We recommend that when you come across each of the highlighted locations, you take the time to find them on a world map,” the authors write. “Knowing geographic locations is another part of developing a broad knowledge base.”
As for keeping your new information — like the fact that Golda Meir was born in Ukraine and lived in Wisconsin and Colorado before moving to Israel, where she became that country’s first female prime minister; or that Aristotle was Alexander the Great’s personal tutor – Harwood and Hamburger have a suggestion.
Since studies have shown, they write, that one of the keys to long-term memory is repeated exposure over short periods of time – a memory strategy known as spaced repetition – a series Step-by-step questions designed to review and re-emphasize key points about the people in the essays are included at the end of each chapter.
“This type of spaced repetition has been shown to help anchor knowledge fully in long-term memory,” they explain.
Just the stuff for the future “Jeopardy!” competitors too.
“Brain Spark” is available on Amazon in paperback, hardcover and ebook and from Barnes and Noble in ebook.