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The Gene: An Intimate History by Siddhartha…

The Gene: An Intimate History (2016)

by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
The biography of Cancer was much more engrossing and thrilling. this is a bit murkier, a bit drier. ( )
  adaorhell | Aug 24, 2018 |
Author Siddhartha Mukherjee captures the excitement, frustration and stubborn efforts of the people who uncovered the mysteries of heredity and genetic information. He carefully lays out the scientific advances for clear understanding and cites a mountain of sources. I hope to read some of the mountain of sources! ( )
  lwobbe | Aug 6, 2018 |
Great book about the history of science and its progress in understanding the human genome, heredity and disease. It is not only focus on the result of the discoveries, but also on the humans behind them, their mistakes in the process, their false ideas and the huge impact on society.

Nicely written, mixes pieces of personal stories of both the author but of some of the patients and scientists involved.

Presents a clear, summarized picture of the status of the current understanding and, more important, what is not yet known and what are the moral/ethical issues that might be required to be dealt with in the near future. ( )
  vladmihaisima | Jun 26, 2018 |
First book I've finished since Augusta passed, and of course it's one she gave me. Interesting read on the history of the gene- it's discovery, the sequencing of the genome and the ultimate progression to modern day, where we are now exploring the manipulation of genes by humans. Couldn't help thinking of the genes of our angel face and how gene therapy could help someone like her in the future. Definitely recommend if you need to be caught up on what science can and cannot do at this point in time. ( )
  nheredia05 | Jun 12, 2018 |
The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee (the author of The Emperor of All Maladies) is well-written and very informative - apparently it is also used in some schools as a textbook. I can see why. He wraps his personal story (schizophrenia among his family members) around a tour de force history of our understanding of genetics. He goes from the ancient Greeks through Mendel and Darwin and the scary eugenics period in this country and Hitler's Germany, to the present day and what may lie ahead. I loved his description of the work of Crick and Watson and others to discover the elegant double helix of DNA, with Crick and Watson's first metal sculpture of it still available to be seen in London.

There are some sections where he gives more than this reader needed - particularly in the latter part of the book where he explains missteps in detail before success is obtained. No doubt those sections would be of particular interest to a student, but briefer would've been fine with me.

Mukherjee is thoughtful about bigger issues, as well as being a skilled author. Here's a couple of quotes that stood out for me. The first quote is from artist Edward Munch, and comes in the author's discussion of how schizophrenia and other mental diseases sometimes are linked to exceptional creativity:

{My troubles} are part of me and my art. They are indistinguishable from me, and treatment would destroy my art. I want to keep those sufferings.

In a eugenics discussion, Mukherjee points out this sorry story:

"Readers from India and China might note, with some shame and sobriety, that the largest 'negative eugenics' program in human history was not the systematic extermination of the Jews in Nazi Germany or Austria in the 1930s. That ghastly distinction falls on India and China, where more than 10 million female children are missing from adulthood because of infanticide, abortion and neglect."

It's not a book like I Contain Multitudes, which is so attractively written that I'm sure it's read by many with only a marginal interest in microbes. My guess is that mainly fans of the subject matter or the author, or both, will read this one. They'll get plenty to enjoy and think about, including the ethical issues raised by our increasing ability to modify genes and potentially select for desirable traits. ( )
1 vote jnwelch | May 10, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
The story of this invention and this discovery has been told, piecemeal, in different ways, but never before with the scope and grandeur that Siddhartha Mukherjee brings to his new history, “The Gene.” ... As he did in his Pulitzer ­Prize-winning history of cancer, “The Emperor of All Maladies” (2010), Mukherjee views his subject panoptically, from a great and clarifying height, yet also intimately.
... By the time “The Gene” is over, Dr. Mukherjee has covered Mendel and his peas, Darwin and his finches. He’s taken us on the quest of Watson, Crick and their many unsung compatriots to determine the stuff and structure of DNA. We learn about how genes were sequenced, cloned and variously altered, and about the race to map our complete set of DNA, or genome, which turns out to contain a stunning amount of filler material with no determined function.

...Many of the same qualities that made “The Emperor of All Maladies” so pleasurable are in full bloom in “The Gene.” The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized, packed with unfamiliar details about familiar people....

... “The Gene” is more pedagogical than dramatic; as often as not, the stars of this story are molecules, not humans. Dr. Mukherjee still has a poignant personal connection to the material — mental illness has wrapped itself around his family tree like a stubborn vine, claiming two uncles and a cousin on his father’s side — but this book does not aim for the gut. It aims for the mind...

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Siddhartha Mukherjeeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Boutsikaris, DennisNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drost-Plegt, TraceyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Veen, René vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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An exact determination of the laws of heredity will probably work more change in man's outlook on the world, and in his power over nature, than any other advance in natural knowledge that can be foreseen.
—William Bateson
Human beings are ultimately nothing but carriers—passageways—for genes.  They ride us into the ground like racehorses from generation to generation.  Genes don't think about what constitutes good or evil.  They don't care whether we are happy or unhappy.  We're just means to an end for them.  The only thing they think about is what is most efficient for them.
—Haruki Murakami, IQ84
To Priyabala Mukherjee (1906-1985), who knew the perils;
to Carrie Buck (1906-1983), who experienced them.
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In the winter of 2012, I traveled from Delhi to Calcutta to visit my cousin Moni.
The monastery was originally a nunnery.
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The Pulitzer Prize-winning author draws on his scientific knowledge and research to describe the magisterial history of a scientific idea, the quest to decipher the master-code of instructions that makes and defines humans; that governs our form, function, and fate; and that determines the future of our children. The story of the gene begins in earnest in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where Gregor Mendel, a monk working with pea plants, stumbles on the idea of a "unit of heredity." It intersects with Darwin's theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms postwar biology. It invades discourses concerning race and identity and provides startling answers to some of the most potent questions coursing through our political and cultural realms. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, gender identity, sexual orientation, temperament, choice, and free will, thus raising the most urgent questions affecting our personal realms. Above all, the story of the gene is driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds--from Mendel and Darwin to Francis Crick, James Watson, and Rosalind Franklin to the thousands of scientists working today to understand the code of codes. Woven through the book is the story of Mukherjee's own family and its recurring pattern of schizophrenia, a haunting reminder that the science of genetics is not confined to the laboratory but is vitally relevant to everyday lives. The moral complexity of genetics reverberates even more urgently today as we learn to "read" and "write" the human genome--unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children and our children's children.--Adapted from dust jacket.… (more)

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