Synopses & Reviews
"Endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved," Darwin famously concluded The Origin of Species
, and for confirmation we look to...the guinea pig? How this curious creature and others as humble (and as fast-breeding) have helped unlock the mystery of inheritance is the unlikely story Jim Endersby tells in this book.
Biology today promises everything from better foods or cures for common diseases to the alarming prospect of redesigning life itself. Looking at the organisms that have made all this possible gives us a new way of understanding how we got here and perhaps of thinking about where we're going. Instead of a history of which great scientists had which great ideas, this story of passionflowers and hawkweeds, of zebra fish and viruses, offers a bird's (or rodent's) eye view of the work that makes science possible.
Mixing the celebrities of genetics, like the fruit fly, with forgotten players such as the evening primrose, the book follows the unfolding history of biological inheritance from Aristotle's search for the "universal, absolute truth of fishiness" to the apparently absurd speculations of eighteenth-century natural philosophers to the spectacular findings of our day which may prove to be the absurdities of tomorrow.
The result is a quirky, enlightening, and thoroughly engaging perspective on the history of heredity and genetics, tracing the slow, uncertain path complete with entertaining diversions and dead ends that led us from the ancient world's understanding of inheritance to modern genetics.
"Try to skim this book and you'll find yourself drawn into reading every word....Throughout his gripping narrative, Jim Endersby shows how today's right answer is almost always tomorrow's wrong one." Gail Vines, New Scientist
"Jim Endersby's book is packed with strange lore about the creatures that live in laboratories, but it is no mere miscellany....Endersby's technique is a wonderfully roundabout way of telling some of the great stories of modern biology." Peter Forbes, Daily Mail
"Endersby's account of how zebra fish became one of nature's most revealing organisms is a gem of popular science writing, both an entertainment and an education." Graham Farmelo, Sunday Telegraph
About the Author
Dr. Jim Endersby is a lecturer in the History Department at the University of Sussex. He was most recently an affiliated lecturer in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at Cambridge University.
Table of Contents
Preface and acknowledgements
1. Equus quaggaand Lord Morton's mare
2. Passiflora gracilis: Inside Darwin's greenhouse
3. Homo sapiens: Francis Galton's fairground attraction
4. Hieracium auricula: What Mendel did next
5. Oenothera lamarckiana: Hugo de Vries led up the primrose path
6. Drosophila melanogaster: Bananas, bottles and Bolsheviks
7. Cavia porcellus: Mathematical guinea pigs
8. Bacteriophage: The virus that revealed DNA
9. Zea mays: Incorrigible corn
10. Arabidopsis thaliana: A fruit fly for the botanists
11. Danio rerio: Seeing through zebrafish
12. OncoMouse®: Engineering organisms
Bibliography, sources and notes