The creation of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s was for many people the start of a new era: the age of genetically modified animals. However, the idea was not new for in the 1920s an amateur scientist, Hans Duncker, decided to genetically engineer a red canary.
Though his experiments failed, they paved the way for others to succeed when it was recognised that the canary needed to be both a product of nature and nurture. Originally published in 2004, this highly original narrative The Red Canary, of huge contemporary relevance, reveals how the obsession with turning the wild canary from green to red heralded the exciting but controversial developments in genetic manipulation.
Tim Birkhead is a professor at the University of Sheffield where he teaches animal behaviour and the history of science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and his research has taken him all over the world in the quest to understand the lives of birds. He has written for the Independent, New Scientist, BBC Wildlife. Among his other books are Promiscuity, Great Auk Islands, The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Ornithology which won the McColvin medal, and most recently, Bird Sense. He is married with three children and lives in Sheffield.
"Rich in historical detail, studded with curious characters – some of them human – and brimming with scientific insights. The Red Canary reads like a fine novel"
– Matt Ridley
"His grasp of the science involved is to be expected from a professor of behaviour and evolution. What is more surprising is his capacity to make it not just comprehensible but fascinating, but making his own genetic cross of science, philosophy, history, sociology and narrative"
– New Statesman
"Takes a small episode from history and draws a surprisingly important lesson from it, in an elegant and diverting way"
– Sunday Telegraph