April 30, 2004
Colloquium Speaker: Dava Sobel
Dava Sobel , a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of Longitude (Walker 1995, Penguin 1996) and Galileo's Daughter (Walker 1999, Penguin 2000). In her thirty years as a science journalist she has written for many magazines, including Audubon, Discover, Life and The New Yorker, served as a contributing editor to Harvard Magazine and Omni, and co-authored six books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. The National Science Board selected Ms. Sobel to receive its 2001 Individual Public Service Award "for fostering awareness of science and technology among broad segments of the general public." Also in 2001, the Boston Museum of Science gave Ms. Sobel its prestigious Bradford Washburn Award for her "outstanding contribution toward public understanding of science, appreciation of its fascination, and the vital role it plays in all our lives." Longitude, now in its twenty-ninth hardcover printing, was translated into two dozen foreign languages and became a national and international bestseller, much to Ms. Sobel's surprise. It won several literary prizes, including the Harold D. Vursell Memorial Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and "Book of the Year" in England. Together with William J. H. Andrewes, who introduced her to the subject of longitude, Ms. Sobel co-authored The Illustrated Longitude (Walker 1998 and 2003). She based her book Galileo's Daughter on 124 surviving letters to Galileo from his eldest child. Ms. Sobel translated the letters from the original Italian and used them to elucidate Galileo¹s life work. Galileo's Daughter won the 1999 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for science and technology, a 2000 Christopher Award, and was a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in biography. The paperback edition enjoyed five consecutive weeks as the #1 New York Times nonfiction bestseller. A new book, Letters to Father, containing the full text of Galileo's daughter's correspondence in both English and Italian, was published by Walker in 2001. An English-only paperback edition, a Penguin "Classic," followed in 2003. The PBS science program "NOVA" produced a television documentary called "Lost At Sea -- The Search for Longitude," which was based on Ms. Sobel's book. Granada Films of England created a dramatic version of the story, "Longitude," starring Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon, which aired on A&E as a four-hour made-for-TV movie. A two-hour "NOVA" documentary based on Galileo's Daughter, called "Galileo's Battle for the Heavens," first aired on public television in October 2002 and won an Emmy in the category of historical
Imagine Galileo as a modern working scientist having difficulties obtaining research support, publishing his results, establishing priority of discovery, and achieving technology transfer. You will find that modern science's work-day realities have long historical roots. Even Galileo had to apply for funding! Had Galileo been in the Applied Physics Laboratory on March 21, 1997, he could have attended Dava Sobel's colloquium on Longitude. And later he could have read her 1998 article, A Brief History of Early Navigation, in the Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest.