Nathaniel Philbrick

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Nathaniel Philbrick
Nathaniel Philbrick in 2004
Nathaniel Philbrick in 2004
Born (1956-06-11) June 11, 1956 (age 66)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
OccupationAuthor, historian
SpouseMelissa Douthart Philbrick

Nathaniel Philbrick (born June 11, 1956) is an American author of history, winner of the National Book Award, and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His maritime history, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, which tells the true story that inspired Melville's Moby-Dick, won the 2000 National Book Award for Nonfiction and was adapted as a film in 2015.[1][2][3]

Personal life[edit]

Nathaniel Philbrick was born on June 11, 1956, in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of Marianne (Dennis) and Thomas Philbrick, an English professor.[4][5] He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and has lived in Nantucket, Massachusetts since 1986.[6]

Philbrick is married to Melissa Douthart Philbrick, former Executive Director of Remain Nantucket. They have two children, Jennie and Ethan. He is a leading authority on the history of the island of Nantucket.[2][7][8]


Philbrick attended Linden Elementary School and graduated from Taylor Allderdice High School[9] in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned a BA in English from Brown University and an MA in American literature from Duke University[3][7] where he was a James B. Duke Fellow.

Philbrick was Brown University’s first Intercollegiate All-American sailor in 1978, the same year he won the Sunfish North Americans in Barrington, Rhode Island.[10]


After graduate school, Philbrick worked for four years as an editor at Sailing World magazine. He then worked as a freelancer for a number of years, during which time he was the primary caregiver for his two children while writing and editing several books about sailing, including The Passionate Sailor, Second Wind, and Yaahting: A Parody.

In 1986, Philbrick moved to Nantucket with his wife Melissa and their two children. In 1994, he published his first book about the island’s history, Away Off Shore, followed in 1998 by a study of the Nantucket’s native legacy, Abram’s Eyes. He is the founding director of Nantucket’s Egan Maritime Institute and is a research fellow at the Nantucket Historical Association.


External video
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on In the Heart of the Sea, June 23, 2000, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on In the Heart of the Sea, May 8, 2001, C-SPAN
video icon Booknotes interview with Philbrick on Sea of Glory, January 25, 2004, C-SPAN
video icon Discussion with Philbrick on Sea of Glory, January 14, 2004, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on Sea of Glory, October 9, 2004, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on Mayflower, June 8, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on Mayflower, September 30, 2006, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on The Last Stand, May 21, 2010, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on Bunker Hill, May 1, 2013, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on Valiant Ambition, May 10, 2016, C-SPAN
video icon Presentation by Philbrick on In the Hurricane's Eye, October 18, 2018, C-SPAN


  • Yaahting: A Parody. 1984.
  • The Passionate Sailor. Contemporary Press, 1987.
  • Away Off Shore: Nantucket Island and Its People, 1602-1890. Penguin, 1993. ISBN 978-0143120124
  • Abram's Eyes: The Native American Legacy of Nantucket Island. Mill Hill Press, 1998.
  • Second Wind: A Sunfish Sailor's Odyssey. Mill Hill Press, 1999.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex. Penguin, 1999. ISBN 0-14-100182-8
  • Sea of Glory: America's Voyage of Discovery: the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. New York: Viking, 2001. ISBN 067003231X OCLC 52086279
  • Revenge of the Whale: The True Story of the Whaleship Essex. Putnam Juvenile, 2002.
  • Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War. New York: Viking, 2006. ISBN 0-670-03760-5 OCLC 62766154
  • The Mayflower and the Pilgrims' New World: The Story of Plymouth Colony for Young Readers. Putnam Juvenile, 2006.
  • The Last Stand: Custer, Sitting Bull, and the Battle of the Little Bighorn. New York: Viking, 2010. ISBN 0670021725 OCLC 456171728
  • Why Read Moby Dick? New York: Viking, 2010. ISBN 978-0670022991
  • Bunker Hill: a City, a Siege, a Revolution. New York: Viking, 2013. ISBN 0-670-02544-5 OCLC 818953755
  • Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution New York: Viking, 2016. ISBN 978-0525426783 [11]
  • In the Hurricane's Eye: The Genius of George Washington and the Victory at Yorktown, 2018.[11]
  • Travels with George: In Search of Washington and His Legacy, New York: Viking, 2021. ISBN 978-0525562177


In the Heart of the Sea is the basis of the Warner Bros. motion picture of the same name, directed by Ron Howard and starring Chris Hemsworth, Benjamin Walker, Ben Wishaw, Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, and Tom Holland, released in December 2015.[12] The book also inspired a 2001 Dateline special on NBC as well as the 2010 two-hour PBS American Experience film "Into the Deep" by Ric Burns.

Bunker Hill has been optioned by Warner Bros. for feature film adaptation with Ben Affleck attached to direct.[11] In 2016, screenwriter Aaron Stockard (The Town, Gone Baby Gone) was signed to the project.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Book Awards – 2000". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  2. ^ a b "Nathaniel Philbrick". National Book Festival author biography. US Library of Congress. Retrieved March 6, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Drew, Bernard. 100 Most Popular Nonfiction Authors: Biographical Sketches and Bibliographies. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. ISBN 1-59158-487-6
  4. ^ "Nathaniel Philbrick » Preface".
  5. ^ "Charles Dennis". The Marion Star.
  6. ^ "Nathaniel Philbrick: About". Retrieved 2011-04-19.
  7. ^ a b "Backgrounder - Nathaniel Philbrick." Smithsonian Institution Libraries. No date.. Retrieved 2009-05-26.
  8. ^ "ReMain Nantucket".
  9. ^ Behe, Regis (2007-04-25). "Behe, Regis. "Authors, Chef Highlight Drue Heinz Lecture Series." Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. April 25, 2007". Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
  10. ^ "Nathaniel Philbrick » About". Retrieved 2016-05-21.
  11. ^ a b c Publishers Weekly, "Book Deals: Week of September 30, 2013"
  12. ^ somf (11 December 2015). "In the Heart of the Sea (2015)". IMDb.
  13. ^ McNary, Dave (2016-04-05). "Aaron Stockard Set to Write Ben Affleck's 'Bunker Hill' Movie". Variety. Retrieved 2016-05-20.


External links[edit]