Our second book club book is The Genome The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters written by the fabulous popular science author Matt Ridley. So why do you think there are 23 chapters to this book? Do you remember how many pairs of chromosomes humans have? Have 23 chromosomes, and Ridley devotes one chapter to each chromosome. The chapters weave stories about genes that are found on each of the chromosomes and how they affect our life (e.g., blood groups) or disease (e.g., Huntington’s disease). He also takes the time to provide information about the history of human evolution, genetics and biology, bringing the biology and its implications all together. What’s interesting about this book is that it was published 2 years before the first draft of the human genome sequence was complete in 2001. It would be interesting to see how different this book would be if written today, 16 years later with the added knowledge and technology.
Besides really enjoying Ridley’s books, he was a visiting scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, where I attended graduate school. He presented to graduate class (which only had 6 people in it) in my first year Scientific Exposition and Ethics class two years after this book was written. He also received an honorary doctorate from my graduate school the year before I received my PhD. Although we met only briefly, his insight and ability to describe science is impressive and all of his books are worth a read.
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