Spanning the globe and several centuries, The Gene is the story of the quest to decipher the master-code that makes and defines humans, that governs our form and function.
The story of the gene begins in an obscure Augustinian abbey in Moravia in 1856 where a monk stumbles on the idea of a 'unit of heredity'. It intersects with Darwin's theory of evolution, and collides with the horrors of Nazi eugenics in the 1940s. The gene transforms post-war biology. It reorganizes our understanding of sexuality, temperament, choice and free will. This is a story driven by human ingenuity and obsessive minds – from Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel to Francis Crick, James Watson and Rosalind Franklin, and the thousands of scientists still working to understand the code of codes.
This is an epic, moving history of a scientific idea coming to life, by the author of The Emperor of All Maladies. But woven through The Gene, like a red line, is also an intimate history – the story of Mukherjee's own family and its recurring pattern of mental illness, reminding us that genetics is vitally relevant to everyday lives. These concerns reverberate even more urgently today as we learn to "read" and "write" the human genome – unleashing the potential to change the fates and identities of our children.
Majestic in its ambition, and unflinching in its honesty, The Gene gives us a definitive account of the fundamental unit of heredity – and a vision of both humanity's past and future.
Siddhartha Mukherjee is a cancer physician and researcher, a stem cell biologist and a cancer geneticist. He is the author of The Laws of Medicine and The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction and the Guardian First Book Award. Mukherjee is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University. A Rhodes Scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. His laboratory has identified genes that regulate stem cells, and his team is internationally recognized for its discovery of skeletal stem cells and genetic alterations in blood cancers. He has published work in Nature, Cell, Neuron, The New England Journal of Medicine, the New York Times and several other magazine and journals. He lives with his family in New York City.
"With a marriage of architectural precision and luscious narrative, an eye for both the paradoxical detail and the unsettling irony, and a genius for locating the emotional truths buried in chemical abstractions, Mukherjee leaves you feeling as though you've just aced a college course for which you'd been afraid to register – and enjoyed every minute of it"
– Andrew Solomon, Washington Post
"[Siddhartha Mukherjee] is the perfect person to guide us through the past, present, and future of genome science [...] It is up to all of us – not just scientists, government officials, and people fortunate enough to lead foundations – to think hard about these new technologies and how they should and should not be used. Reading The Gene will get you the point where you can actively engage in that debate."
– Bill Gates, Gatesnotes
"The Gene is prodigious, sweeping, and ultimately transcendent. If you're interested in what it means to be human, today and in the tomorrows to come, you must read this book."
– Anthony Doerr, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of All the Light We Cannot See
"Dramatic and precise [...] [A] thrilling and comprehensive account of what seems certain to be the most radical, controversial and, to borrow from the subtitle, intimate science of our time [...] He is a natural storyteller [...] A page-turner [...] Read this book and steel yourself for what comes next."
– Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times
"The story [...] has been told, piecemeal, in different ways, but never before with the scope and grandeur that Siddhartha Mukherjee brings to his new history, The Gene. He fully justifies the claim that it is "one of the most powerful and dangerous ideas in the history of science." [...] Definitive"
– James Gleick, New York Times Book Review
"[The Gene is] destined to soar into the firmament of the year's must reads, to win accolades and well-deserved prizes, and to set a new standard for lyrical science writing."
– New York Times
"The Gene is as engaging, powerful and elegant a piece of science writing as you are likely to read this year [...] Mukherjee has three rare talents. The first is a shining prose style quite unlike anything else in his field [...] A novelist's command of narrative and tone. The third and most unusual talent is an eye for the lustre among the manifold drudgeries of research [...] It takes a skilful writer to turn all the personalities and patients, data and ideas into something that is dramatic without being melodramatic [...] The Gene succeeds as a compelling story [...] For this alone, Mukherjee deserves another part-time Pulitzer."
– Oliver Moody, The Times
"Mukherjee is an assured, polished wordsmith [...] This is a big book, bursting with complex ideas [...] Well-written, accessible and entertaining account of one of the most important of all scientific revolutions, one that is destined to have a fundamental impact on the lives of generations to come. The Gene is an important guide to that future."
– Robin McKie, Observer
"His sweeping and compellingly told history – and there is no more accessible and vivid survey available – is about hubristic ambition as much as stunning achievement."
"Magisterial [...] [The Gene] will confirm [Mukherjee] as our era's preeminent popular historian of medicine. The Gene boasts an even more ambitious sweep of human endeavor than its predecessor [...] Mukherjee punctuates his encyclopaedic investigations of collective and individual heritability, and our closing in on the genetic technologies that will transform how we will shape our own genome, with evocative personal anecdotes, deft literary allusions, wonderfully apt metaphors, and an irrepressible intellectual brio"
– Elle magazine (US)
"[It] takes a monumental and complex subject which is woven into every part of our lives and makes it both gripping and accessible."
– Mark Haddon, Guardian
"Not just first-class science writing but an important intellectual contribution in its own right."
– Philip Ball, Prospect
"He writes with the natural flate of a seasoned novelist [...] [The Gene] is a pleasure to read [...] This is an exceptional book, and I thoroughly recommend it to every inquisitive person."
– Tabish Khair, Daily Mail
"The book is compassionate, tautly synthesized [...] A page-turner."
– Jennifer Senior, New York Times
"Mukherjee is an outstanding guide [...] [The Gene] is a remarkably instructive, stimulating and, at every level of its generous construction, artful work of popular science."
– Gregory Radick, Times Literary Supplement
"Visceral and thought-provoking descriptions of the horrors of early-twentieth-century US eugenics."
– Matthew Cobb, Nature
"Virtuoso performance [...] Remarkably clear and compelling prose [...] Glorious tour of human genetics."
– Abigail Zuger, New York Times
"Remarkable and thought-provoking book [...] Mukherjee explores in considerable and lucid detail [...] What he does magnificently is trace the history of the gene in illuminating detail [...] If you want to know what is happening now, this is an essential read."
– Simon Griffith, Mail on Sunday
"Outstanding [...] an exceptional writer"
– The Times
"A sweeping history of genetic theory and a considered look at where it might lead us in the future."
– Mail on Sunday, Book of the Year
"Dazzling [...] There is nothing about The Gene that is less than nuanced."
– Sathnam Sanghera, The Times
"A magnificent synthesis of the science of life, and forces all to confront the essence of that science as well as the ethical and philosophical challenges to our conception of what constitutes being human"
– Paul Berg, winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry
"Wise and lucid [...] excellent"
– Andrew Marr, BBC Radio 4 Start the Week
"A tourist guide to the new Africa, the human genome [...] Mukherjee gives an exhaustive account of the development of the modern science of inheritance [...] Mukherjee does a good job of cutting away the web of ambiguity and complexity'"
– Steve Jones, New Statesman
"Written with the rollicking enthusiasm of sports journalism [...] Mukherjee has an ear for his subject's rhetorical brilliance."
– Andrew Solomon, Guardian Weekly