Sobel hit upon the idea for the play more than 30 years ago but, as she told the History of Science Society in 2007, “at that time... I lacked the courage to attempt writing one.” She eventually composed the play in 2006 while serving as the Robert Vare Nonfiction Writer-in-Residence at the University of Chicago.
A 2007 Guggenheim grant allowed Sobel to travel to Krakow and view the original manuscript of Copernicus’s “De Revolutionibus” at the Jagiellonian Library. “This was a rare and wonderful experience,” she says, “comparable to viewing a total solar eclipse, in that it lasted only a few minutes, and something normally invisible came to light: a hole in the page where Copernicus drew his Sun-centered cosmos (the natural consequence of using a pair of compasses to establish eight concentric circles).”
A bestselling science writer, Sobel is renowned for her ability to present arcane subjects in riveting and readable prose. Her most recent book is “The Planets”(2005), a lavishly illustrated history of the individual members of our “solar family” as they have been explained by science, mythology, visual art, and popular culture throughout the ages. “Publishers Weekly” said, “This resonant and eclectic collection— informative, entertaining and poetic— is a joy to read.”
Sobel’s 1995 surprise bestseller, “Longitude: The True Story of a Lone Genius Who Solved the Greatest Scientific Problem of His Time,” tells the tale of John Harrison, a self-educated 18th century English clockmaker and his quest to develop a reliable instrument for ocean navigation. The “Washington Post” called it, “A simple tale, brilliantly told.” The book also served as the basis of a PBS “Nova” special.
“Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith and Love” (1999), became a number one “New York Times” nonfiction bestseller, and received the “Los Angeles Times” Book Award. It presents the correspondence and fascinating relationship between Renaissance astronomer Galileo and his illegitimate daughter, Virginia, a Franciscan nun. “Entertainment Weekly” said that Sobel “[transforms] what could have been a dusty academic subject into a rich, gripping page-turner.”
Sobel is an award-winning former science reporter for the “New York Times,” and a contributor to numerous magazines including the “New Yorker,” “Discover,” and “Audubon.” In 2001 she received the National Science Board’s Public Service Award.
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.