Galileo’s Biographer: Dava Sobel visits Northeast State June 12

Dava Sobel redefined the notion of Galileo the man and made science clear and cool with her insightful books about scientific evolution in the Western world.

Northeast State welcomes the best-selling author of Galileo’s Daughter and The Planets to campus on June 12 at 2 p.m. for a public presentation about the work of the Roman astronomer who changed the western world at the Wellmont Regional Center for the Performing Arts.

Galileo’s Daughter revisits the life of the legendary Italian scientist through the eyes of his eldest daughter, a cloistered nun. Their loving relationship, traced through actual correspondence, overturns the myth of Galileo as an enemy of the Catholic Church.

Sobel based her book on 124 surviving letters to Galileo from his eldest child.  She translated the letters from the original Italian and used them to elucidate Galileo’s life work.

Although his discoveries in astronomy made Galileo famous, his writings brought him to trial before the Inquisition, after which he was forced to deny his own beliefs. Ironically, his definition of the relationship between science and religion has since become the Church’s official position.

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 sequel, 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 edition, a Penguin “Classic,” followed in 2003.

In her 30 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 five books, including Is Anyone Out There? with astronomer Frank Drake.

From January through March 2006, Ms. Sobel served as the Robert Vare Nonfiction Writer in Residence at the University of Chicago, where she taught a seminar in science writing while pursuing research on her new project—a stage play about sixteenth-century astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, called And the Sun Stood Still.

Sobel is a featured speaker of the annual Lyceum Lecture Series at Northeast State.  Additional information, contact 423.279.7669 or e-mail

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