Historians of science and the "Sobel Effect"




In 1995, journalist Dava Sobel's Longitude caused an earthquake in the history of science community. The present article analyses how only recently historians of science have fully realized the novelty the book represented. In the meantime, the international success of popular books by journalists on the history of science has become a well-known phenomenon. The author suggests that the huge publishing success of Sobel's book ­ the "Sobel Effect" ­ has provoked three main kinds of reaction among historians: rejection, detachment, and imitation. Which of the three strategies is the best, for both public and authors?