234 pages, b/w illustrations
This is the first book for general readers on this fascinating and important subject. Epigenetics studies long-term alterations in our DNA that do not involve changes in the DNA sequence itself. Our DNA is covered in a variety of organic molecules that are chemically attached to it and can influence the expression of our genetic information. What is particularly worrying is that environmental effects, such as poor nutrition, or stress on a fetus or an infant, can cause life-long epigenetic alterations.
Richard C. Francis makes the science behind epigenetics understandable through stories that feature the Dutch famine of World War II, Jose Canseco and steroids, George Washington and the breeding of mules, X-women, nonidentical identical twins, a gorilla with poor parenting skills, the obesity epidemic, guinea pigs that refuse to obey Mendel's law, and Tasmanian devils suffering from a contagious cancer.
This smart, accessible book on a key 21st century topic is a must-have for every well-informed citizen.
"By way of wonderful stories from everyday – and not so everyday – life, Francis acquaints the reader with the fascinating world on, above, and around the genes. This is an excellent and extremely enjoyable introduction to the importants science of epigenetics."
– Oren Harman, author of The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness
"In a style that is clear and stimulating, but never patronizing, Richard Francis provides an intelligent, readable, and enjoyable account of how epigenetics helps us construct our nature and influence our heredity. Using fascinating examples and case studies, Francis brings to life this new and exciting field of biological and medical research, which alters the way we need to think about our past and our future."
– Eva Jablonka, Tel Aviv University, coauthor of Evolution in Four Dimensions
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Richard C. Francis is a freeelance writer with a PhD in neurobiology and behaviour from Stony Brook University. He conducted postdoctoral research at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University, and has published articles in academic journals in the neurosciences, evolution, and the philosophy of science.
Francis is the author of Why Men Won't Ask for Directions: The Seductions of Sociobiology as well as chapters on the marine environments of Mexico, Belize, Brazil, Hawaii, Australia, and Thailand for The Ecotravelers Wildlife Guides. He and his wife live in Brooklyn, New York.