Dava Sobel

How can studying the scientific leaps of the past help us envision our future?

Author of Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, and The Planets

Request Booking Info
Dava Sobel | Author of Longitude, Galileo’s Daughter, and The Planets

Calling Dava Sobel prolific would be an understatement. With 30 years of science journalism behind her, the bestselling author was formerly The New York Times’ science reporter. A co-author and former contributing editor to Harvard Magazine and Omni, Sobel is, quite clearly, one of the most influential science writers of our time. 

Dava Sobel is the author of Longitude and Galileo’s Daughter—which spent five weeks as the #1 New York Times non-fiction bestseller—and The Planets. In her thirty years as a science journalist she has written for many magazines, including Audubon, Discover, Life and The New Yorker, and co-authored five books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake. Her stories combine real life drama and historical scientific achievement into a unique—and fascinating—literary fusion.


Sobel's work has been adapted for the small screen on several occasions. The PBS documentary series NOVA produced “Lost At Sea—The Search for Longitude,” based on Longitude, as well as the Emmy award-winning “Galileo's Battle for the Heavens,” based on Galileo's Daughter. A dramatic version of Longitude was made into a four-hour made-for-TV movie for A&E and starred Jeremy Irons and Michael Gambon. Sobel’s contributions to scientific literature has led her to speaking engagements at some of the world's most prestigious institutions. She has lectured at The Smithsonian Institute, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center and The Royal Geographical Society (London). She is a frequent guest on National Public Radio programs, including The Connection with Christopher Lydon, Fresh Air, and many others. She has also appeared on NBC’s TODAY and C-SPAN’s Booknotes.

Speech Topics

Galileo’s Daughter A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love

Inspired by a longheld fascination with Galileo, and by the surviving letters of Galileo’s daughter (Maria Celeste, a cloistered nun), Dava Sobel presents a talk unlike any other—a mixture of science, history, and revealing correspondences. Sobel’s celebrated book, Galileo’s Daughter, dramatically recolored the personality and accomplishments of Galileo, whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo’s grand public life and his daughter’s sequestered world, Sobel skillfully paints a fresh and deeply human picture of this mythic figure. In the process, she illuminates the pivotal era when humanity’s perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. She shows us Galileo’s steady and immense influence on the way we think about science, religion, and the point at which, inevitably, they meet.

Social Science
Longitude The True Story of a Lone Genius who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time

How did one man in the eighteenth century change the way we envision the vastness and the boundaries of our physical world? In the early days of sailing, mariners had no accurate means of determining their position at sea. They often lost track of their location as soon as they lost sight of land. Innumerable tragedies befell navies and traders—until John Harrison, a clockmaker, solved the perplexing problem of longitude. (The grid lines that mark every map and globe today can be traced to his discoveries.) What led one self-educated man to solve a problem that Newton and Galileo could not? And how can studying the scientific leaps of the past help us envision our future? In this elegant talk, Dava Sobel weaves a powerful historical narrative to show us how Harrison’s invention of the chronometer changed the way we look at the world and how it continues to shape our concept of distance and place.

The Planets
In this talk, Dava Sobel celebrates the deep connection humans have always had with the planets in our solar system. Using astrology, mythology, science fiction, music, and poetry, Sobel reminds us that despite living in an age of science, we are more culturally and spiritually linked to the cosmos than we realize. Celebrating both Earth and her nearest neighbors, she speaks eloquently on the nature of our unique moment in human history—a moment when the familiar family of nine planets acknowledges the nearly two hundred newly discovered planets orbiting stars beyond the Sun. Beautiful, warm, and meticulously crafted, this talk makes generous room for philosophy, logic, science, and poetry. It will delight lovers of astronomy and lay people alike.