Bronx Science holds a different significance to each student that passes through its halls, leaving them with countless memories and setting them up for the future. For Dava Sobel, class of 1964, Bronx Science is the bearer of some of her fondest memories, and the place that started a career journey that took a number of turns, before ending in the highly successful place she is today.
On December 1, 2017, Sobel stepped foot in the halls of the Bronx High School of Science once again, observing the noticeable changes as well as the continuities. During her interview by the Student Ambassador, Gregory Ginsberg ’18, she shared some advice on choosing your desired career path, a topic many Bronx Science students struggle with. Sobel did not know what she wanted to do with her career for a large portion of her life; she described taking many detours in her choices of major in college, unsure of what field she should settle in. Sobel is a crowning example of how it is okay to not know what you want to do in college. “Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s something you enjoy in the small moments of the day,” said Sobel.
“Whatever you decide to do, make sure it’s something you enjoy in the small moments of the day,”- Sobel ’64
From her time at Bronx Science, Sobel fondly recalls everything from the high teaching standard, plethora of resources available to students, the diversity of her classmates, and political activism. “We felt like we were onto something,” said Sobel, describing the political awareness held by her and her classmates. While she did not plan to end up in her current field after graduating from Bronx Science, she applied the lessons she learned in high school to her later endeavors. “I am more proud of having gone to Bronx Science than any other educational institution,” said Sobel.
Post-Bronx Science, Sobel graduated from Binghamton University in 1969, moving through a number of different majors before settling on writing. She attended a lecture by Carl Sagan, the American astrophysicist and author, which she cites as a turning point in her life. Sobel was paid $5 to write an article for a local newspaper about the lecture, and after it was well-received and landed her a full-time job, her career writing about science set off. “My mother says it’s the best $5 I ever made,” said Sobel.
Now, Sobel is the author of eight books about science, and throughout her career has also worked as a science reporter for the New York Times covering topics in psychology and psychiatry. Sobel notes that these fields were not her area of expertise, but says that she settled into the job by giving herself no other option but to write. “If you really want to do it, eventually you will. You just need to put your head down and get it done,” said Sobel. She has also taught at the University of Chicago, among other colleges, teaching the ins and outs of science writing.
One of Sobel’s most acclaimed works is the novel “Longitude,” which tells the story of John Harrison, the man who created the first clock to be used to determine longitude at sea, solving one of the most important scientific problems of the seventeenth century in the process. In “Longitude,” Sobel interweaves fascinating scientific descriptions with the page-turning suspense of a fiction novel, allowing for people of vastly different interests to enjoy the book. “These are science books for people not into science,” said Sobel. “People grow up thinking of historical figures as marble busts. I wanted to make them into actual people, so these stories could be enjoyed by everyone.”
The root of her extremely successful and meaningful career can be traced back to Bronx Science. Sobel cites the academic motivation of her peers, student diversity, and excellent teaching standards as factors that she carried with her into post-high school education, as well as adulthood. While she hadn’t stepped foot in the building in many years, Sobel still fondly holds many intricate memories of her time here.