The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha Mukherjee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Thanks goes to Netgalley and a wonderful author for a wonderfully told series of stories within the world of genetics.
I was worried, briefly, by the insistence of bringing Aristotle's take on the genome, or the recapitulation of many of the grandfathers of the science, such as Mendel and Darwin, but the way that these otherwise well-known personages were brought alive to the page was more of a story than a dry recounting. Even so, I wasn't prepared for what was soon to come.
I became engrossed in the history of American Eugenics, and even more so in Germany's frightful improvements, all of which painted the history of the science in quite a dark, and ignorant, light.
Fortunately for all of us, Crick, Watson, and Ferdinand come out swinging and we can see this all as a heroic step forward... even considering the fact that Ferdinand never got to see her work truly recognized.
From here on out, we've got truly wonderful tales of Beck and the birth of recombinant DNA, scientists self-policing, the rise of multinational bio-engineering firms, AIDS, gene therapies, genome mapping, and of course cloning and stem-cell blocking, and each and every one of these stories are bright and very readable.
And what's more, it's always informative and it's always interesting. It even draws us in to the author's own deep and emotional familial history and his own drive to understand.
I'll make no bones about it: I was moved.
I've read more than a handful of books on genetics in the past, and while some were quite good and some were sometimes mesmerizingly boring, I think this one has got to be the most readable, grab you on the human level, and most in depth survey of the entire field that I've ever read.
So many disparate characteristics managed to encode the proteins of the narrative, and no one could be happier than me to see such a healthy and shining phenotypical expression be borne from a popular book. It's classy and smart. Very smart. In fact, it's pretty much a must-have if you're a science-history buff bringing us up to the cutting-edge present and want a few questions for the future. :)
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