In this exploration of the concept of the gene, Jonathan Slack looks at the discovery, nature, and role of genes in both evolution and development. Explaining the nature of genetic variation in the human population, how hereditary factors were identified as molecules of DNA, and how certain specific mutations can lead to disease, Slack highlights how DNA variants are used to trace human ancestry and migration, and can also used by forensic scientists to identify individuals in crime. He also explores issues such as the role of genetic heritability and IQ as well as the changes that occur in the genes of populations during evolution.
An ideal guide for anyone curious about what genes are and how genetics can be put to use, this Very Short Introduction demonstrates the ways in which the gene concept has been understood and used by molecular biologists, population biologists, and social scientists around the world.
1: Genes before 1944
2: Genes as DNA
3: Mutations and gene variants
4: Genes as markers
5: Genes of small effect
6: Genes in evolution
Conclusion: the varied concepts of the gene
Professor Jonathan Slack is Director of the Stem Cell Institute of the University of Minnesota. He has published widely on genes in development, and has written four academic books. He is also on the editorial board of the journal Evolution and Development. He is also the author of Stem Cells: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012).