The Journey of Man
is not just some old fashioned sexist travelogue about a bloke in shorts and sandals wandering the byways of the world. As the subtitle explains, it is "a genetic odyssey" of men rather than women. We have heard a lot about the matriarchal "African Eve". As Spencer Wells says, we all have an African foremother who lived approximately 150,000 years ago. She handed down her genetic mitochondrial "handbag" specifically to her daughter and on over the generations and millennia. But what about the male contribution to today's human genome?
Luckily for the male ego and population geneticists it turns out that blokes also have some unique chromosomal hand baggage hidden away in the non-recombining part of the Y chromosome. Like female mitochondrial DNA it is passed solely between father and son and is particularly useful for studying human diversity. This is because it is so big--much bigger than mitochondrial DNA--and accumulates mutations at particular sites that can be relatively easily identified. By sampling the Y chromosome from men around the world the modern human diaspora can be mapped out both geographically and chronologically.
Spencer Wells is an American geneticist with impeccable credentials from Harvard, Stanford and Oxford universities and certainly knows his subject. Fortunately, he is also very good at explaining the science, which can be somewhat complicated at times. This fascinating and often surprising story originated as a television film and has benefited from being thoroughly worked out through first-hand experience around the world.
Accompanied by 24 pages of brilliant photos by Mark Read, an excellent list of further reading and an index, The Journey of Man is well worth getting to grips with. As Wells points out, each of us carries a unique chapter locked away inside our genome, and we owe it to ourselves and our descendants to discover what it is. Come on boys, this is our story and we ought to know the gist of it. Douglas Palmer
The Journey of Man
is fascinating and oozes charm. . . . [It] is packed with important insights into our history and our relationships with each other. . . . Who needs literature when science is this much fun? (Chris Lavers The Guardian
Fortunately for the lay reader, Wells has a knack for clear descriptions and clever analogies to help explain the intricacies of the science involved. Both entertaining and enlightening. (Library Journal
Wells does an excellent job of making complex scientific data accessible and weaves a tapestry of physical anthropology and archaeology as well as linguistics and, of course, genetics to piece together the rise of the agricultural society, the interrelations between far-flung languages, and the eventual settlement of humans into virtually every corner of the globe. (Elise Proulx East Bay Express
Spencer Wells chronicles the history of genetic population studies, starting with Darwin's puzzlement over the diversity of humanity he saw first-hand from the deck of the Beagle
, and ending with the various attempts to classify human variation on the basis of different political and social agendas. . . . Wells has an insider's knowledge of the science and its excitement. (Rebecca Cann Nature
)The Journey of Man
is the best account available of the story of human origins and dispersals. . . . This is a first-class account of a whole new approach to the human story that allows human population history to be reconstructed in an unexpected and convincing way. (Colin Renfrew The Times Higher Education Supplement
)The Journey of Man
is a book that should be read, for undeniably the story Wells reveals will transform our understanding of ourselves. (Tim Flannery New York Review of Books
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.