"Pasteur," Brian Ford believes, "did us all a great disservice". His germ theory of disease bequeathed to us a fear of microbes, and consequently an aversion to unicellular life. This aversion is only heightened by those biologists for whom the cell is merely a dumb vehicle for selfish DNA.
In a book whose title badly belies its true subject--cells themselves are, Ford says, "living entities with minds of their own", not mere information packets--the living cell is revealed as the fundamental, pluripotent agent of life on earth. "I want to show that we can understand ourselves only as manifestations of the cells of which we are composed," Ford writes. "Everything we do is a reflection of the separate cells whose choreographed interactions make us what we are.'
Ford's fascinating account ranges from the (occasionally literally) explosive biochemistry of human life to the myriad microbial populations vital to our wellbeing. Ford strips modern genetics of its fearsome millennialist mask. Genetics has a long history--even a prehistory--and the changes ushered in through modern techniques, while they should not be minimised or ignored, are only a tiny part of the whole story.
Ford's concluding speculations, applying the lessons of cellular behaviour to individuals and even human societies, opens up exciting possibilities for further research, while treating the casual reader to an engaging, distinctly acerbic account of human nature. --Simon Ings