UNCG Campus Weekly

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Dava Sobel on Shakespeare and Galileo

Photo of Dava Sobel speaking with others after presentationDava Sobel, best known for her award-winning book “Galileo’s Daughter,” told the UNCG audience a fantasy she has:

Galileo Galilei and William Shakespeare having the opportunity to speak with each other.

They were born the same year, 500 years ago, but alas, neither ever left his home country.

“I’m sure there would have been tremendous admiration on both sides,” she said.

The author spoke to a large audience March 25 in the Music Building’s Recital Hall as a highlight event of UNCG’s year-long “The Globe and the Cosmos” series. It marks their births a half-millennium ago.

“I love the title ‘The Globe and the Cosmos,” she said. “That’s the best.”

She noted the apparent references in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” to a supernova that was seen in 1572. The night watchmen in the play allude to it. The ghost does, as well.

She also spoke of the “inherited world of astrology’ both men shared. Galileo was teaching medical students how to cast and use horoscopes to set times for giving treatments, she wryly explained.

Galileo, through the use of a telescope, discovered that Jupiter had moons – four of them. Sobel told the audience Jupiter’s newly-discovered moons are alluded to in Shakespeare’s “Cymbeline.”

The scientist wrote six sonnets – she finished her talk by reading one in an English translation. The topic of the sonnet? A comet.

Earlier in the day, Sobel had joined many UNCG Lloyd International Honors College students for lunch and discussion, Dean Jerry Pubantz noted as he introduced her.

He also noted she is working on a new book: on the women of the Harvard College Observatory.

By Mike Harris