I’m not a huge science book fan – except sometimes physics or astronomy – biology – not! So had the All-nonfiction group not selected this title for it’s September discussion I would likely never have even picked it up. In fact, I was really tempted to give it a pass. Fortunately, I tried the sample and was a bit intrigued. This is more a history of genetics and the story of how the scientists came to the understandings they have today as well as the ramifications for tomorrow.
The Gene: An Intimate History
by Siddhartha Mukherjee
2016/ 608 pages
rating: 9 / history/science
The ideas and the history are fascinating – from the thoughts of ancient Pythagoras about male sperm and Aristotle’s ideas of human shape and form to Darwin and Mendel and Nazism all the way to 2016 and the ideas of recombinant DNA. The future? – Well … how to make choices?
After a rundown of the history of the sciences of genetics and evolution, Mukherjee ponders the idea of “disease” and what is “normal,” what is “best” as well as what is “race” and what is “intelligence?” Are genes actual determiners of our destiny? What about environment? Mukherjee’s own family has genetic issues and he’s quite frank about them as a kind of memoir winds through the book.
The photographs are nice but I kind of wish there had been one clear diagram of what a gene looks like with a bunch of its parts labeled. Also, I wasn’t too sure about the technical side – what kind of microscopes were the scientists using at what times?