'Galileo's Daughter' author Dava Sobel offers a tour of 'The Planets'

February 06, 2009

Science journalist Dava Sobel, the award-winning author of the best-sellers "Galileo's Daughter" and "Longitude," will speak at Penn State Erie this month.

Sobel's appearance is jointly sponsored by the campus' annual Speaker Series and the School of Science's Open House Nights in Astronomy outreach program. Her presentation, titled "The Planets," will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 26, in the Samuel P. "Pat" Black III Conference Center in the campus' Research and Economic Development Center (REDC). Admission is free and open to the public; parking will be available in the REDC deck located on Technology Drive, off Jordan Road.

The year 2009 has been designated "The International Year of Astronomy" to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first observations of the heavens with the newly discovered telescope. "Thousands of events with the theme, 'The Universe, Yours to Discover,' are planned around the world; we're pleased that Dava Sobel's presentation will be the first of them here at Behrend," said Roger Knacke, director of the campus' School of Science. "She writes eloquently about the planets and the effects that discoveries about the solar system have had on not just science, but on society, religion and on our view of humans in the universe."

In "Galileo's Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love" (Walker, 1995), Sobel constructed a biography of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) based on the 124 surviving letters written to the physicist by his oldest illegitimate daughter, a cloistered nun who took the name Sister Maria Celeste in his honor. "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 No. 1 New York Times nonfiction bestseller.

Sobel's next book, "Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time" (Walker, 1999), has had 29 hardcover printings. The story of John Harrison, a clockmaker who succeeded where Galileo and Isaac Newton had failed, "Longitude" has been adapted as both a NOVA documentary and a feature film starring Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon. In 2004, in London, Sobel received the Harrison Medal from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in recognition of her contribution to increasing the public's awareness of the science of horology.

Sobel is a former science writer at The New York Times. She previously has lectured 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, and the Royal Geographical Society in London. She has been a frequent guest on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," "Fresh Air," "The Connection with Christopher Lydon," and "The Diane Rheem Show."

Sobel's presentation on "The Planets" is supported by Penn State Erie's Student Activity Fee, the Division of Student Affairs, and the Harriet Behrend Ninow Memorial Lecture Series Fund, and the School of Science. For more information about her lecture, call the Office of Student Activities at (814) 898-6171.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated January 09, 2015