Award-winning author Dava Sobel is applauded for her ability to take complex scientific information, present it in a form understandable to most, and to humanize it by depicting the people who researched or observed or discovered it.
This Wednesday, July 25, Nantucket audiences will get to hear Sobel speak about her book The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory took the Measure of the Stars at a lecture in the Nantucket Whaling Museum co-hosted by The Nantucket Maria Mitchell Association (MMA) and the Nantucket Historical Association. Admission is $25, and tickets are available at nha.org or by calling 508-228-1894. A reception and book signing will follow the lecture.
Sobel has worked as a New York Times science reporter and contributed to Harvard Magazine, Audubon, Discover, Life, Omni, and The New Yorker. Her newest book, The Glass Universe, was a New York Times Review Notable Book of 2017. It tells the story of the women who were hired as computers at the Harvard College Observatory from the late-1800s to mid-1900s. The director, Edward Pickering, believed that women were more conscientious and exacting workers. They worked in critical positions in the observatory and contributed to numerous scientific discoveries, including the development of the Draper Classification for stars, a star classification system that was adopted world-wide. As photography developed, the women were able to move away from calculating and began observing the night sky themselves. These women were able to determine what stars were made of, calculate the distances between stars, and categorize the stars. Some of the women went on to discover stars and even teach astronomy at Harvard, following in similar footsteps to Maria Mitchell. The Glass Universe has won critical acclaim.
Sobel has combined literature and the history of science in her books, including Galileo’s Daughter, which focuses on another woman, a nun, and her relationship to religion and her father’s, Galileo’s, scientific work. Sobel is most noted for her book Longitude – about the prize to develop chronometers in the eighteenth century that would allow longitude to be determined at sea, thus helping to reduce shipwrecks.
The Maria Mitchell Association continues to host their summer Science Speaker Series on Wednesday evenings from 7- 8 pm, which features astronomers, authors, environmentalists, biologists, researchers, and others each week throughout the summer. For a full schedule and description of each speaker, visit mariamitchell. org. These events are just $10, and are free to MMA members.
The Maria Mitchell Association is a private non-profit organization. Founded in 1902, the MMA works to preserve the legacy of Nantucket native astronomer, naturalist, librarian, and educator, Maria Mitchell. The Maria Mitchell Association operates two observatories, a natural science museum, an aquarium, a newly opened research center, and preserves the historic birthplace of Maria Mitchell. A wide variety of science and history-related programming is offered throughout the year for people of all ages. This year celebrates Mitchell’s 200th birthday with special lectures, events, classes, and exhibits all year-long, culminating in the Maria Mitchell Women in Science Symposium in October 2018 in Boston.