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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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1,1564610,669 (4.12)104
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    A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford (jigarpatel)
    jigarpatel: Summary of how humans have evolved with evidence found in genetics; interesting follow-up to Gene: An Intimate History.

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» See also 104 mentions

English (45)  French (1)  All languages (46)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
A bit disappointing quite frankly compared to Emperor of Maladies.

The book is way too long for the information it conveys. Most of it is basic biology, I'd say that half to 3/4 of the scientific materials would be covered in a bio 101 class in college. There's some basic biological history, anyone with a cursory knowledge of the neo-darwinian revolution would be quite bored by at least the first half of the book. I give it three stars, since on its face for someone with little biology background it is very informative. A lot of the book could have been left out, the book tends to go into some boring analogies and platitudes that have little payoff. I picked the book up because it was interesting to me that Mukherjee dedicated the book partially to Carrie Buck (of Buck v. Bell). I was hoping that the book would go more into the history of the eugenics movement and the social implications of genetic discovery. Other than the 1994 study on race, and basic eugenics policies of the nazis, the book delivered some cursory history and few insights into the social impact of genetics. Even the personal story that Mukherjee tells, about his familial history of mental illness is a bit unidimensional.

I was personally disappointed with the book. So many elements that worked in Emperor of Maladies (the personal story, the scientific history, explanations of important experiments/discoveries) did not work in this book. I think it's probably because 1) I came in with a lot more base knowledge on genetics than cancer medicine and 2) the scope of this book was too ambitious, a shorter but more focused treatment of one aspect of genetics (epigenetics let's say) would have been more impactful and interesting.

However, it's not a bad book on its own terms, a good review for someone who hasn't taken biology in a while, or someone looking for a sympathetic broad treatment of genetics.

( )
  vhl219 | Jun 1, 2019 |
The Gene really is a masterpiece. For those who had some sort of biology but not a true in-depth genetics background, it really puts into perspective what you have probably learnt is now logically ordered in an excellent and engaging story. The book is written in a way to be accessible with just enough rendering of the scientific details so you don’t need a background in biology at all. All chapters have a historical and chronological order.

It begins in 350 BC... (if you like to read my full review please visit my blog: https://leadersarereaders.blog/2018/10/08/the-gene-an-intimate-history/) ( )
  LeadersAreReaders | Feb 19, 2019 |
I think I have a pretty good understanding of genetics, DNA, and cell biology. Mukherjee makes it into a great and thought provoking story. After a well done recapitulation of the history of the developing science of human understanding of inheritance he goes on to discuss the developing science of generic engineering and the ethical and philosophical dilemmas it embodies. He personalized the discussion by telling the story of mental illness in his family.
While solving the ethical dilemmas isn't a scientific problem his understanding of the science informs his analysis of the issues.
An enjoyable read. ( )
  waldhaus1 | Feb 3, 2019 |
This book is a history of gene and inheritance research and theories, from the ancient Greece to modern day, the latest discussed breakthroughs are from year 2015, the year of publication. It is written as an overview for the public, quite closely following the approach from his previous book, The Emperor of All Maladies.
The book covers such range of topics as theories of inheritance, works and lives of Mendel, Darwin, Morgan, Dobzhensky and many others; theory of evolution and its problems in case of non-genetic inheritance; eugenics in the Great Britain, the USA and Nazi Germany; search for DNA structure; creation of insulin-producing bacteria; epigenetics; rivalry between public and private-financed genome research; investigation of genetic diseases as well as possible links between genes and psychic disorders and even homosexuality.
The text is rich in details, great enlightening reading. Recommended to anyone who want to know more about the subject.
( )
  Oleksandr_Zholud | Jan 9, 2019 |
A challenging read for me, given its length and unfamiliar subject material. Yet, I’m glad that I persevered as it gave me a better understanding of these important scientific advances that will impact the next wave of human development. Mukherjee has done an admirable job of explaining the evolution of genetics up to today for a lay person, and while I could wish it was shorter, I didn’t have a problem with the repetition of key points as it helps the lay reader connect/ recall the points. ( )
  Elizabeth088 | Dec 25, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (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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