The Gene

Ideas about the gene, genetics and genetic engineering get splashed around in the media routinely now. Often the gene is cast up as a simple determinant of behaviour, such as a ‘criminal gene’, or a ‘homosexual gene’. Not many subjects have occasioned as much confusion and misunderstanding.


A clear, accurate, and up-to-date popular science book on genetics is now available to improve understanding if that’s what you wish. Siddhartha Mukherjee ( has published The Gene: An Intimate History.


We are told about Oswald Avery’s brilliantly straightforward 1944 pinpointing of DNA as the carrier of coded information, Watson and Crick’s building and rebuilding of their man-sized model of its structure in the 1950s, the quest to isolate the gene for Huntington’s disease in the 1980s and 1990s. All through, what shines out is the sheer ingenuity of the scientists who have unravelled the genome. Mukherjee also explains epigenetics, the notion that the environment leaves marks on the genome that switch genes on and off, with concomitant behavioural and health effects.


Interwoven with the science explanations are stories about Mukherjee’s own family with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness. This reminds us that what underpins our biology has real effects in our everyday experience as humans. The subject is, in any case, unavoidable because the science of genetics is going to shape the future of our species. This will be in combating disease, and also creating a new stronger life form which will ultimately transcend us.


Check if this educational book of popular science is in stock at your local library by consulting the online catalogue at



608 pages in Bodley Head

First published 2016

ISBN  978-1847922632


Siddhartha Mukherjee

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