CHESTERTOWN, MD—Best-selling author Dava Sobel, one of the world’s most influential science writers, will be in Chestertown Friday, October 28 to share the story of the lone genius whose invention of the chronometer changed the way we envision and navigate our world. Based on the title of her acclaimed book, Longitude, her presentation will take place at 8 p.m. at the Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theater, 210 High Street.
Sobel unpacks the 18th century struggle of what had become a deadly problem: the inability to correctly identify where a ship was at sea. After countless tragedies and lost ships throughout the Age of Sail, British Parliament offered a prize of £20,000 to whoever could provide a reliable solution to "the longitude problem". Sobel weaves a captivating historical narrative on the issues surrounding this predicament, as well as the amazing journey of John Harrison, a self-educated clockmaker who solved the greatest scientific problem of his day — and won the lucrative prize with his invention of the chronometer.
First published in 1995, Longitude went through 29 hardcover printings before being re-issued in October 2005 in a special tenth-anniversary edition. It has been translated into two-dozen foreign languages and was the inspiration and basis for several documentary and dramatic films about Harrison.
A former New York Times science reporter, Sobel is also the author of Galileo’s Daughter, which spent five weeks at the top of the New York Times non-fiction best-seller list, and The Planets. Her latest book, A More Perfect Heaven, published last month by Walker and Company, focuses on Nicolaus Copernicus and his “crazy” ideas concerning the Earth’s motion around the sun. Ms. Sobel’s success in popularizing science and scientists has been recognized with an Individual Public Service Award from the National Science Board, 2001, a Bradford Washburn Award from the Boston Museum of Science, a Harrison Medal from the Worshipful Company of Clockmakers in London, and a Klumpke-Roberts Award from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Sobel's talk is jointly sponsored by the Center for Environment and Society at Washington College, the Van Dyke Family Foundation, Sultana Projects, and the Maryland Humanities Council. Longitude is one of three lectures and forums to be featured at the Prince Theatre during this year’s Downrigging Weekend. On October 27 at 5 p.m., New Yorker writer Ryan Lizza will address the difficulties in politics and climate change, and at the same hour on October 29, Sultana Projects will host a forum reflecting back on the building of the Schooner Sultana. Admission to all three lectures is free and open to the public. For information, contact (410) 778-7295 or(410) 778-5954.