Humans now wield a greater influence on the planet than any other species in history, and human-developed technologies like genetic engineering and artificial intelligence stand poised to overtake biological evolution. Just how did we arrive at this unique moment in human history, 14 billion years after the birth of the universe Sydney Brenner's 10-on-10: The Chronicles of Evolution brings together 24 prominent scientists and thinkers to trace the story of evolution through ten logarithmic scales of time. Through expert insights, this unique volume considers how humans found our place in the cosmos, and imagines what lies ahead.
- Life In The Habitable Zone (John D Barrow)
- From Clay To The Code Of Life (Hyman Hartman)
- Stepping Up To Life (Jack W Szostak)
- When Cells Get Creative (Giulia Rancati and Norman Pavelka)
- Finding Strength In Numbers (Detlev Arendt)
- There And Back Again (Per Ahlberg)
- Conquest Of The Land And Sea (Byrappa Venkatesh)
- A Salute To Our Placoderm Pioneers (John A Long)
- Warming Up To Mammals (Harris Lewin)
- All In The Family (Francis Thackeray)
- Lessons From Our Inner Neanderthal (Svante Pääbo)
- Wired For Intelligence (Terrence Sejnowski)
- Getting Smart About Learning (Atsushi Iriki)
- More Than Just Small Talk (Tecumseh Fitch)
- The Logic Of Cultural Evolution (Roland Fletcher)
- Going With The (Information) Flow (Sander van der Leeuw)
- Lingo With A Life Of Its Own (N J Enfield)
- How We Became Modern (W Brian Arthur)
- The Creative Destruction Of Evolution (Stefan Thurner)
- The Challenge Of The Anthropocene (J Stephen Lansing)
- Difficult Questions In Evolution (Eörs Szathmáry)
- An Evolving View On Evolution (Gerd B Müller)
- The Humble View From Inside Evolution (Helga Nowotny)
- Epilogue (Sydney Brenner)
Sydney Brenner was born in 1927 in South Africa, where he attended high school and medical school; he later received his DPhil from Oxford University, UK. One of the pioneers of modern molecular biology, Brenner was instrumental in deciphering the basic principles of the genetic code. In the 1960s, together with Francis Crick, Brenner showed that the code is composed of non-overlapping triplets; in collaboration with François Jacob and Matthew Meselson, he went on to demonstrate the existence of messenger RNA.
Brenner is also known for spearheading the use of the nematode worm Caenorhabitis elegans as a model organism for understanding human biology. He was later awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (with H Robert Horvitz and John E Sulston) for his work in C elegans on the genetics of programmed cell death. In the genomic era, Brenner developed new methods for next generation DNA sequencing, and initiated a project to sequence the compact genome of the Japanese pufferfish or fugu.
Brenner is currently scientific advisor to the chairman at the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR), Singapore, and an adjunct professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technology University, Singapore, among other affiliations. He continues to work on genomes and their evolution.
"This wonderfully anthropocentric and chronocentric book throws ten logs on the fiery topics of evolution. A must-read – next to Hawking's A Brief History of Time and Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. A remarkably readable and inspiring distillate of amazing lecturers covering topics from the Big Bang to the Anthropocene, with many insights into the near and far future along the way."
– George Church, Professor, Harvard University
"May you live in interesting times' is a curse of unclear origin but certainly one that applies to our current age, when fake news dominates the media. What a great delight then to read this marvellous book in which an inspirational concept based in the logarithmic analysis of time attempts to answer with intellectual rigour and clarity the great questions of 'Who are we?', 'Where did we come from?' and 'Where are we going?'. In all of this book the guiding intellect of Sydney Brenner is apparent. No one understands evolution better than he."
– David Lane, Chief Scientist, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore
"An inspirational read. If there is one person who could distil 14 billion years of evolutionary history into a single volume, accessible to and for everyone – and do so with such impish brilliance – it could only be the unique Sydney Brenner. A true colossus of science, a leader others had to and invariably wanted to follow, and a brilliant individual at his best working within a team, Sydney does it all with a wonderful sense of humour that shines through whenever he speaks. This book is a fitting tribute to a true great who made a unique contribution to humanity and had fun doing so."
– Jeremy Farrar, Director, Wellcome Trust
"The Chronicles of Evolution brings together an impressive team of leading scientists to introduce readers to the history of life, from its very beginnings to the emergence of our own species."
– Carl Zimmer, author of She Has Her Mother's Laugh
"The Chronicles of Evolution is a fascinating compilation of short stories elegantly highlighting and explaining some of the key periods that led to life on Earth as we know it today. This treatise presents the history of life in terms that are understandable, enlightening and eminently readable by anyone with a basic education in science. With an introduction and a summing up by Sydney Brenner, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to get a fast overview of evolution. It is not easy to put it down."
– Richard Roberts, Nobel laureate (Physiology or Medicine, 1993)
"Another real winner from Brenner! Sydney's brain never stops generating clever insights about the nature of life."
– James D. Watson, Nobel laureate (Physiology or Medicine, 1962)
"Few people have been as long or as deeply involved in raising Singapore's scientific standing as Sydney Brenner. Brimming with big ideas, The Chronicles of Evolution is a fitting tribute to Brenner's legacy and extraordinary career, and will leave readers with a renewed sense of wonder at the forces that have shaped the course of natural history and human evolution."
– Lim Chuan Poh, Chairman, Agency for Science, Technology and Research, Singapore
"The development of rapid DNA sequencing revolutionised the study of evolution, and four decades later we have reaped the benefit, combining genome evolution with anthropology, anatomy and studies on the brain and behaviour. This super book, including a masterful foreword by Sydney Brenner displaying his inimitable style, contains a remarkable series of essays from true thought leaders that begins with the origins of life, covers the evolution of species, and then tackles how cognition and culture evolved. This book is a must-read for everyone."
– Bruce Stillman, President, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
"The Chronicles of Evolution takes readers on a thought-provoking, bold and extremely readable journey into 14 billion years of evolutionary history. The insights it features from world-renowned thinkers not only paint a rich and detailed picture of the past, but also challenge us to take a long, hard look at the kind of future we want to build."
– Subra Suresh, President, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
"A lavishly illustrated, thought-provoking ride."