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“The Glass Universe” with Dava Sobel

September 8, 2018 @ 1:30 pm - 2:30 pm


Pre-registration for this event is required. To reserve a space, call the Southwest Harbor Public Library at (207) 244-7065.

Join our 2017 keynote speaker, award-winning science writer and bestselling author as she discusses her experience researching, reporting, and writing about astronomy. Dava Sobel, a former New York Times science reporter, is the author of “Longitude,” “Galileo’s Daughter,” “The Planets,” “A More Perfect Heaven” and her latest book, “The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars.” She is co-author of six more books including “Is Anyone Out There?” with astronomer Frank Drake.

“The Glass Universe” recounts the story of the pioneering women recruited to work in the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s to calculate, measure, classify and make sense of the information gathered via early astrophotography. They were to leave their mark on astronomy with still widely accepted classifications of stellar spectra, the discovery of the period-luminosity relationship among variable stars, and the earliest estimates of stellar composition that pointed to the predominance of hydrogen and helium.

Books will be available for purchase.

A long-time science contributor to Harvard Magazine, Audubon, Discover, Life, Omni, and The New Yorker, Sobel hosts the 5-part radio series “Stargazing,” currently airing on the BBC World Service. She received the 2001 Individual Public Service Award from the National Science Board “for fostering awareness of science and technology among broad segments of the general public.” Also in 2001, the Boston Museum of Science gave her 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.” In October 2004, in London, Ms. Sobel accepted the Harrison Medal from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers, in recognition of her contribution to increasing awareness of the science of horology by the general public, through her writing and lecturing. In 2008 the Astronomical Society of the Pacific gave her its Klumpke-Roberts Award for “increasing the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy.” In 2015, she received an honorary doctor of science degree from the University of Bern, Switzerland.

From January through March 2006, she served as the Robert Vare Non-fiction Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago, where she taught a seminar in science writing while pursuing research for her stage play about sixteenth-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, called “And the Sun Stood Still.” Her play was commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club through the Alfred P. Sloan Initiative, and was also supported by a Fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In May 2011, as the Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Doenges Visiting Artist/Scholar, Ms. Sobel taught a course called “Writing Creatively about Science” at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, Virginia. In fall 2013, she began a three-year appointment as the Joan Leiman Jacobson Visiting Nonfiction Writer at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. “Longitude” went through twenty-nine hardcover printings before being re-issued in October 2005 in a special tenth-anniversary edition with a foreword by astronaut Neil Armstrong. Soon after its original publication in 1995, the book was translated into two dozen foreign languages and became a national and international bestseller. 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. “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. 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 programming.

Lecture engagements have taken Ms. Sobel to speak at The Smithsonian Institution, The Explorers’ Club, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, The Folger Shakespeare Library, The New York Public Library, The Hayden Planetarium, The Royal Geographical Society (London), and the American Academy in Rome. She has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio programs, including “All Things Considered,” “Fresh Air,” and “The Diane Rheem Show.” Her television appearances include C-SPAN’s “Booknotes” and “TODAY” on NBC.

A 1964 graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, Ms. Sobel attended Antioch College and the City College of New York before receiving her bachelor of arts degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton in 1969. She holds honorary doctor of letters degrees from the University of Bath, in England, and Middlebury College, Vermont, both awarded in 2002. She was editor of the collection “Best American Science Writing 2004”and has served as a judge for the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction, the PEN / E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award, and the Lewis Thomas Prize awarded by Rockefeller University to scientists who distinguish themselves as authors.


September 8, 2018
1:30 pm - 2:30 pm
Event Category:


Southwest Harbor Public Library
338 Main Street
Southwest Harbor, ME 04679 United States
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(207) 244-7065
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