116 years after Oscar Wilde's death, the prison that housed him opens its doors.

Reading prison is one of the most notorious jails in the world.

Located in Berkshire, England, it was built in 1844 and housed inmates and young offenders all the way until 2013, when it finally closed.

Reading Gaol circa 1850. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.


On Sunday, September 4, Reading prison will open its doors to the public to pay tribute to one of its most famous inmates: Oscar Wilde.

Wilde was a writer in the 19th century and is one of the most important voices in literary history. Known for his plays, essays, poems, and novels, such as "The Portrait of Dorian Gray," Wilde also lectured in the United States and Canada and worked as a journalist in London.

He also bears an uncanny resemblance to the great Stephen Fry, who portrayed the late-author in a 1997 biopic. Photo by W. & D. Downey/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

In 1895 Wilde wrote "The Importance of Being Earnest," which many consider his masterpiece.

Shortly after, at the height of his fame, a series of libel accusations between Wilde and Scottish nobleman John Douglas revealed that Wilde had been engaged in romantic relationships with men. And one of those men just happened to be John Douglas' son.

Oscar Wilde and Alfred Douglas. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

Wilde was charged with "gross indecency" and months later ended up in Reading prison, where he spent two years in cell C.3.3.

His time there changed him forever. His final piece of writing was "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" — a haunting poem about an execution he witnessed while serving his prison sentence. Once a prolific and energetic author, Wilde spent his final years in exile, writing only sparingly.

A few short years after being released from Reading, he died in 1900 at the age of 46.

116 years after Wilde's death, Reading prison will host an artistic tribute to him called "Inside."

Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

It's a one-of-a-kind art exhibition that will feature works from artists like Steve McQueen, Ai Weiwei, and others.

"The Winter" by Steve McQueen. Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

Visual pieces will be on display in the prison cells, and every Sunday, there will be a guest reading of "De Profundis" — the 50,000-word letter that Oscar Wilde wrote to his lover while imprisoned.

Ben Wishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Maxine Peake, and Patti Smith have all signed on to read the letter, which takes over four hours.

Wilde certainly wasn't the only person of his era to be punished by anti-homosexual laws.

In fact, the "indecency" law that put Wilde in prison remained in effect until 1967. It was the same law that sentenced Alan Turing to chemical castration in 1952 — not to mention the thousands of others history has forgotten.

"The Boy" by Nan Goldin. Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

"Inside" will be as much about remembering the life and career of Oscar Wilde as it will be about acknowledging the events that led to his decline and death.

Just like Turing, Wilde made incredible contributions to culture that still move us and affect us today. Yet, he died in a world that disgraced him for who he loved and who he was.

The door of Cell C.3.3, where Oscar Wilde was held. Photo by Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images.

The exhibition will run for two months.

Even if you can't attend in person, it's worth remembering this piece of history. It's what allows us to keep moving further and further away from it, into a future where people are celebrated and accepted for who they love, not punished for it.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Researchers at Harvard University have studied the connection between spanking and kids' brain development for the first time, and their findings echo what studies have indicated for years: Spanking isn't good for children.

Comments on this article will no doubt be filled with people who a) say they were spanked and "turned out fine" or b) say that the reason kids are [fill in the blank with some societal ill] these days are because they aren't spanked. However, a growing body of research points to spanking creating more problems than it solves.

"We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don't think about spanking as a form of violence," said Katie A. McLaughlin, director of the Stress & Development Lab in the Department of Psychology, and the senior researcher on the study which was published Friday in the journal Child Development. "In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing."

You can read the entire study here, but the gist is that kids' brain activity was measured using an MRI machine as they reacted to photos of actors displaying "fearful" and "neutral" faces. What researchers found was that kids who had been spanked had similar brain neural responses to fearful faces as kids who had been abused.

"There were no regions of the brain where activation to fearful relative to neutral faces differed between children who were abused and children who were spanked," the authors wrote in a statement.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less