Nathaniel Philbrick: 2015
Mystic Seaport honored historian and author Nathaniel Philbrick with the 2015 America and the Sea Award. Presented annually by the Museum, the prestigious award recognizes an individual or organization whose contribution to the history, arts, business, or sciences of the sea best exemplify the American character.
Philbrick received the award October 14 at a gala held in his honor at the Metropolitan Club in New York City.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the award. Past recipients include oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle, historian David McCullough, legendary yacht designer Olin Stephens, President and CEO of Crowley Maritime Corporation, Thomas Crowley, philanthropist William Koch, former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, WoodenBoat founder Jon Wilson, yachtsman and author Gary Jobson, and maritime industrialist Charles A. Robertson.
“Like those recipients before him, Nat Philbrick’s work helps to elevate one’s understanding of the sea. With every work he publishes, his words speak to American history and they instruct us on our heritage in a very personal and approachable manner,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport.
Philbrick is closely linked to the island of Nantucket, where he moved with his wife, Melissa, and their two children in 1986. In 1994, he published his first book about the island’s history, Away Off Shore, followed by a study of Nantucket’s native legacy, Abram’s Eyes. He was the founding director of Nantucket’s Egan Maritime Institute and is still a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.
In 2000, Philbrick published the New York Times bestseller, In the Heart of the Sea, which won the National Book Award for nonfiction. The book is the basis of the Warner Bros. motion picture “In Heart of the Sea,” which is directed by Ron Howard and scheduled for release in December, 2015. The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC and the 2010 two-hour PBS American Experience film “Into the Deep” by Ric Burns.
The author’s next book, Sea of Glory, was published in 2003 and won the Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Naval History Prize and the Albion-Monroe Award from the National Maritime Historical Society. The New York Times bestseller Mayflower, a finalist for both the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in History and the Los Angeles Times Book Award, won the Massachusetts Book Award for nonfiction. Mayflower was named one of the ten “Best Books of 2006” by the New York Times Book Review and is currently in development as a limited series on FX.
Philbrick’s latest New York Times bestseller, Bunker Hill: A City, a Siege, a Revolution, was published in 2013 and was awarded both the 2013 New England Book Award for nonfiction and the 2014 New England Society Book Award, as well as the 2014 Distinguished Book Award of the Society of Colonial Wars. Bunker Hill has been optioned by Warner Bros. for feature film adaptation.
Philbrick has received the Byrne Waterman Award from the Kendall Whaling Museum, the Samuel Eliot Morison Award for distinguished service from the USS Constitution Museum, the Nathaniel Bowditch Award from the American Merchant Marine Museum, the William Bradford Award from the Pilgrim Society, and the Boston History Award from the Bostonian Society. He was named the 2011 Cushing Orator by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons and has an honorary doctorate from the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where he delivered the commencement address in 2009.
His writing has appeared in Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, and The Boston Globe. He has appeared on the “Today Show”, the “Morning Show”, “Dateline”, PBS’s “American Experience”, C-SPAN, and NPR.
Philbrick grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in America Literature from Duke University, where he was a James B. Duke Fellow. He was Brown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978.