Have You Heard About... The Violinist's Thumb

… the information hidden within your cells? In The Violinist’s Thumb and Other Lost Tales of Love, War, and Genius, as Written by Our Genetic Code, Sam Kean takes us through the history of mankind’s understanding of genetics and heredity, from early beliefs through Mendel’s pea plants to the Human Genome Project. Along the way, he touches on a wide variety of subjects, including the effects of the nuclear bombs on people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, differences (and similarities) between Neanderthals and humans, and the extent to which genes determine our destiny.

Mr. Kean is an engaging writer, introducing the reader to the personalities and quirks of the many scientists involved in the study of genes, chromosomes, and DNA. He also takes a difficult subject and makes it interesting and understandable to the average person, much as he did with The Disappearing Spoon and elements (previously reviewed). Mr. Kean adds a very personal note to the narrative by talking about the results of his own genetic test and his fears about the chance that he could be at a higher risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease.

This well-written book provides an interesting account of the history of genetics, our current understanding of the field, and what scientists are looking at next. The author also looks at how our understanding of DNA affects everything from history and archaeology, to sociology and, of course, medicine.

 

Reviewed by Fran (staff)