This is a story about you. It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is to each of the 100 billion modern humans who have ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in every one of our genomes we each carry the history of our species – births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration and a lot of sex. Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001 it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims and myths. In fact, as Adam Rutherford explains, our genomes should be read not as instruction manuals, but as epic poems. DNA determines far less than we have been led to believe about us as individuals, but vastly more about us as a species. In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about history, and what history tells us about our genes. From Neanderthals to murder, from redheads to race, dead kings to plague, evolution to epigenetics, this is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.
Dr. Adam Rutherford is a science writer and broadcaster. He studied genetics at University College London, and during his PhD on the developing eye, he was part of a team that identified the first genetic cause of a form of childhood blindness. He has written and presented many award-winning series and programmes for the BBC, including the flagship weekly Radio 4 programme Inside Science, The Cell for BBC Four, and Playing God on the rise of synthetic biology for the leading science strand Horizon, as well as writing for the science pages of the Guardian. His first book, Creation, on the origin of life and synthetic biology, was published in 2013 to outstanding reviews and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Trust Prize.
"I very much enjoyed and admired [...] A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived"
– Bill Bryson, Observer Books of the Year 2016
"A thoroughly entertaining history of Homo sapiens and its DNA in a manner that displays popular science writing at its best"
– Robin McKie, Observer
"A brilliant, authoritative, surprising, captivating introduction to human genetics. If you know little about the human story, you will be spellbound. If you know a lot about the human story, you'll be spellbound. It's that good"
– Brian Cox
"Adam Rutherford's book is well-written, stimulating and entertaining. What's more important, he consistently gets it right"
– Richard Dawkins
"An effervescent work, brimming with tales and confounding ideas carried in the "epic poem in our cells". The myriad storylines will leave you swooning [...] Rutherford, a trained geneticist, is an enthusiastic guide"
– Colin Grant, Guardian
"If you are ethnically British, one thing is certain: your ancestors definitely had sex with Neanderthals. On the other hand, they probably didn't have sex with Vikings, who, it turns out, did a fair bit more pillaging than raping. And, depending on the flakiness of your earwax, it is just conceivable that your relatives' unattractiveness to hairy and horned invaders was related to their body odour. DNA is fragile, confusing and contains a lot of pointless data. But unlike other accounts of human history it doesn't lie. Adam Rutherford's soaring book is an exposition of what this new science really tells us about who we are"
– Tom Whipple, The Times
"One of the most extraordinary things about this book is its sheer breadth. Rutherford, a writer and geneticist who has written previously on the subject, weaves from our genes a fascinating tapestry of human history from its most primitive origins to its sophisticated present, and beyond [...] The writing is concise and often funny, and Rutherford never takes himself or his subject too seriously [...] It is one of those rare books that you'll finish thinking you haven't wasted a single second."
– Brad Davies, independent.co.uk
"Rutherford takes off on an extraordinary adventure, following the wandering trail of DNA across the globe and back in time. And on the way, he reveals what DNA can – and can't – tell us about ourselves, our history and our deep evolutionary heritage. From the Neanderthals to the Vikings, from the Queen of Sheba to Richard III, Rutherford goes in search of our ancestors, tracing the genetic clues deep into the past [...] Wide-ranging, witty, full of surprises and studded with sparkling insights – Rutherford uncovers the epic history of the human species, written in DNA"
– Alice Roberts
"A captivating delight. With witty, authoritative and profound prose, Adam Rutherford tackles the biggest of issues – where we came from, and what makes us who we are. He does more than any author to cut through the confusion around genetics, and to reveal what modern genetics has to say about our identity, history and future"
– Ed Yong
"Magisterial, informative and delightful"
– Peter Frankopan
"Genetics is opening up the past as never before – Adam Rutherford puts the genes in geneaology brilliantly"
– Matt Ridley