978-0-393-05083-7 / 9780393050837

Jacob's Ladder: The History of the Human Genome


Publisher:W. W. Norton & Company



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About the book:

Although sequencing the human genome has brought speculation about all kinds of results--from curing to cloning--another sort of scientific payoff is in the works. In Jacob's Ladder, former UCLA professor Henry Gee shifts focus from the applied science of genomics to the basic research questions that can be addressed with this new information. "To describe the sequencing of the genome as a technical feat," he writes, "is to miss the point." Gee is most excited about the possibilities of understanding what makes us all human, rather than the individual genetic variances that make us individuals. He examines the genome as a motif representing the "pinnacle of human self-knowledge." Further, he claims that the philosophical shadow of Darwin has made us forget that one of the central questions of our being is how all of us are made from nothing, or rather from everything. To redirect thought, he closely describes how genes control the development of every human, both within and before each individual lifetime. While Gee's ideas are large enough to support a book on this by now well-covered subject, general readers will likely be put off by his somewhat dry and academic style. --Therese Littleton

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