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Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chaptersby Matt Ridley
Synopses & Reviews
Matt Ridley's Genome is one of the best, and most popular, works of popular science of recent years, in line with such instant classics as Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb or Brian Greene's The Elegant Universe. Ever since James Watson and Francis Crick first determined the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in the early sixties one of the greatest discoveries in the history of science the race to unravel and map the human genome has been one of the most dramatic stories of our time. Our newfound understanding of genetic code is transforming, at a rate unprecedented in human history, the way we understand almost every human endeavor: religion, medicine, philosophy, physics, agrigulture, biology, and (O. J. aside) criminology, to name just a few. And this revolution in the way we live our lives and relate to the world we live in is still in its very early stages. Written just before the initial findings of the landmark Human Genome Project were released in June of 2000, Genome remains the best single introduction on what these findings which will be released in full in 2003 mean to us now, and what they may mean in the future. In Ridley's hands, this story is also a fascinating and illuminating discourse on what it means to be a human being and to be alive at this definitive point in our history. Martin, Powells.com
The human genome, the complete set of genes housed in twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, is nothing less than an autobiography of our species. Spelled out in a billion three-letter words using the four-letter alphabet of DNA, the genome has been edited, abridged, altered and added to as it has been handed down, generation to generation, over more than three billion years. With the first draft of the human genome due to be published in 2000, we, this lucky generation, are the first beings who are able to read this extraordinary book and to gain hitherto unimaginable insights into what it means to be alive, to be human, to be conscious or to be ill.
By picking one newly discovered gene from each of the twenty-three human chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. He finds genes that we share with bacteria, genes that distinguish us from chimpanzees, genes that can condemn us to cruel diseases, genes that may influence our intelligence, genes that enable us to use grammatical language, genes that guide the development of our bodies and our brains, genes that allow us to remember, genes that exhibit the strange alchemy of nature and nurture, genes that parasitise us for their own selfish ends, genes that battle with one another and genes that record the history of human migrations. From Huntington's disease to cancer, he explores the applications of genetics: the search for understanding and therapy, the horrors of eugenics and the philosophical implications for understanding the paradox of free will.
"A superb writer whose exquisite, often moving descriptions of life's designs remind me of the best work of the late Lewis Thomas....He crafts some of the clearest explanations of complex biological processes that I have encountered. What's more, he captures their slippery beauty." Susan Okie, Washington Post Book World
A fascinating tour of the results of the most momentous scientific endeavor of our time--the Human Genome Project--cleverly told in 23 essays, one for each chromosome.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -336) and index.
About the Author
Matt Ridley is the author of the national bestseller Genome. His previous books include The Red Queen and The Origins of Virtue. His science writing has appeared in The Economist, Wall Street Journal, Discover, Atlantic Monthly, Natural History, and many other publications. He lives in northern England.
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