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Marguerite Holloway, photo by Miriam Beyer
Marguerite Holloway


NYS Writers Institute, April 11, 2013
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Standish Room, Science Library, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Reading | Clark Auditorium, NYS Museum, Cultural Education Center, Albany


Marguerite Holloway, director of the Science Journalism program at Columbia University and author of The Measure of Manhattan (2013), a biography of the forgotten 19th century genius who planned Manhattan’s street grid, will speak Thursday, April 11, 2013 at 8 p.m. in the Clark Auditorium, New York State Museum, Cultural Education Center, Madison Avenue in downtown Albany. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Standish Room, Science Library, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public, and are cosponsored by the New York State Writers Institute and the Friends of the New York State Library.

"I thought journalism seemed to be a wonderful way to write consistently . . ." (2:42)

The Measure of ManhattanMarguerite Holloway,
science journalist, is the author of a new biography of the forgotten 19th century genius who developed Manhattan’s street-grid, The Measure of Manhattan: The Tumultuous Career and Surprising Legacy of John Randel, Jr., Cartographer, Surveyor, Inventor (2013). Born and raised in Albany, renowned for his brilliance, Randel was also infamous in his own day for eccentricity, egotism, and a knack for making enemies. He was a significant pioneer of the art and science of surveying, as well as an engineer who created surveying devices, designed an early elevated subway, laid out a controversial alternative route for the Erie Canal, and sounded the Hudson River from Albany to New York City in order to make maps and aid navigation. One of the many delights of Holloway’s book is that it also reveals, for modern readers, the original landscape of Manhattan in its natural state before it was “tamed” by Randel’s grid.

Simon Winchester, bestselling author of The Map That Changed the World, said, “This intelligent and entirely riveting account of the brave young man who squared and sculpted Manhattan… is every bit as groundbreaking a success as was his own work, two centuries before. Marguerite Holloway has uncovered in the life of John Randel Jr., a quite marvelous tale, and has told it just magnificently.” 

Marguerite HollowayElizabeth Kolbert, bestselling author of Field Notes from a Catastrophe, called The Measure of Manhattan “a fascinating look at a forgotten episode in American history,” and said, “Marguerite Holloway brings to life the man who in a very real way made New York what it is today.”

Geoff Manaugh of the architectural news site BLDGBLOG said, “This outstanding history of the Manhattan grid offers us a strange archaeology: part spatial adventure, part technical expedition into the heart of measurement itself, starring teams of 19th-century gentlemen striding across the island’s eroded mountains and wild streams, implementing a grid that would soon enough sprout skyscrapers and flatirons, Central Park and 5th Avenue. Marguerite Holloway’s engaging survey takes us step by step through the challenges of obsolete land laws and outdated maps of an earlier metropolis, looking for— and finding— the future shape of this immeasurable city.”

Director of the Science and Environmental Journalism Program at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Holloway received the school’s Presidential Teaching Award in 2009 and the Distinguished Teacher of the Year award in 2001. She is a former editor of and long-time contributor to Scientific American, covering environmental issues, public health, neuroscience and women in science. She has also written for Discover, Natural History, the New York Times, and Wired.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.