"statue of Atlas"
by cm

Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeAtlas - Credit: Fly Navy, Flickr
The childhood inspiration recalled by Dava Sobel is this 7-tonne, 15ft Art Deco statue created by Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan in 1936.  

Atlas was the Titan condemned in Greek mythology to bear the world on his shoulders after waging war against the Gods.