Synopses & Reviews
What can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives?
Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo's mission to answer this question, and recounts his ultimately successful efforts to genetically define what makes us different from our Neanderthal cousins. Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, Neanderthal Man describes the events, intrigues, failures, and triumphs of these scientifically rich years through the lens of the pioneer and inventor of the field of ancient DNA.
We learn that Neanderthal genes offer a unique window into the lives of our hominid relatives and may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why humans survived while Neanderthals went extinct. Drawing on genetic and fossil clues, Pääbo explores what is known about the origin of modern humans and their relationship to the Neanderthals and describes the fierce debate surrounding the nature of the two species interactions. His findings have not only redrawn our family tree, but recast the fundamentals of human history the biological beginnings of fully modern Homo sapiens, the direct ancestors of all people alive today.
A riveting story about a visionary researcher and the nature of scientific inquiry, Neanderthal Man offers rich insight into the fundamental question of who we are.
It is a rare thing to read about an important development in science by its principal innovator, written in the spirit and style in which the research unfolded. Neanderthal Man is a dispatch from the front, and if you want to learn how real science is really done, I suggest you read it.” Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University
Pääbo passionately chronicles his personal story, from graduate school through the culmination of the Neanderthal project 30 years later, and the scientific implications of this exciting research....In accessible prose, Pääbo presents the science so that laypersons will understand the nature and import of his work. But it's his discussion of the scientific process that steals the show....He discusses what it took to build a case tight enough to convince even the most skeptical of colleagues and he goes on to demonstrate that scientific knowledge is cumulative and ever-evolving.” Publishers Weekly, starred review
About the Author
Svante Pääbo is the founder of the field of ancient DNA. The director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Pääbo has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, and The Economist, as well as on NPR, PBS, and BBC. In 2009 Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Pääbo lives in Leipzig, Germany.