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The Seven Daughters Of Eve [Paperback]

Bryan Sykes
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Sep 2004

In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution, was called in to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of the discovery of the Ice Man and his age, which was put at over five thousand years old, fascinated the world. But what made the story particularly extraordinary was that Professor Sykes was also able to track down a living generic relative of the Ice Man, a woman living in Britain today.

How was he able to locate a living relative of a man who died thousands of years ago? In The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes gives us a first hand account of his research into a remarkable gene which passes undiluted from generation to generation through the maternal line and shows how it is being used to track our genetic ancestors through time and space. After plotting thousands of DNA sequences from all over the world he found that they had clustered around a handful of distinct groups. In Europe there are only seven. The conclusion: almost everyone of native European descent, wherever they live in the world, can trace their ancestry back to one of seven women, the Seven Daughters of Eve. He has named them Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine.

In this remarkable scientific adventure story we learn exactly how our origins can be traced, how and where our ancient genetic ancestors lived, what their live were like and how we are each living proof of the almost miraculous strength of our DNA which has survived and prospered over so many thousands of years to reach us today. It is a book that not only presents the story of our evolution in a wholly new light, but also strikes right at the heart of ourselves as individuals and of our sense of identity.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (1 Sep 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552152188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552152181
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

In The Seven Daughters of Eve Bryan Sykes has produced a highly readable scientific autobiography depicting the major events in his career as a human geneticist. He was the first to extract DNA from the bones of the 5,000-year-old Iceman, and he solved the problem of the colonisation of Polynesia by tracing modern Polynesians' genetic ancestry. The high point of his work so far is the creation of a genetic map of Western Europe, showing that over 95% of native Europeans can trace their ancestry back to one of seven individual women. To trace this lineage Sykes and his team used mitochondria, tiny structures within each cell, which are passed on purely down the maternal line. Because they do not engage in recombination like chromosomes, mitochondria are easy to trace, changing only as a result of slow mutation. The mutation rate acts as a clock indicating how long different populations have been separated. The science is clearly explained and Sykes gives a good flavour of the life of a working scientist in a series of well-chosen anecdotes, all written in a warm, engaging style. The seven daughters themselves, whom he has named Ursula, Xenia, Helena, Velda, Tara, Katrine and Jasmine, are brought to life in rather whimsical little stories describing how their lives might have been before and during the last great Ice Age. All in all, this is an excellent piece of popular-science writing, unveiling a fascinating story about human inter-relatedness. It deserves to be widely read. --Elizabeth Sourbut --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"A terrific book, written with humour and humanity" (The Sunday Times)

"An engrossing, bubbly read, a boy's own adventure in scientific story-telling that fairly bounces along... a thumping good read" (Observer)

"Sykes's wonderfully clear book should be compulsory reading for politicians... an eye-opening guide to the new branch of science that is changing the human race's view of itself" (Literary Review)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best popular science book I've read all year 26 July 2006
Even to a mere 16 year old teenager, this book was engrossing. The descriptions of the Seven Daughters of Eve were imaginative, and every line was mixed with humour. Even the most scientific parts of the book were very easy to understand, and even enjoyable, which not many popular science books can do. Sykes has a gift of explaining complex notions clearly, and for that alone, he deserves the five stars.

But what is most absorbing about this book is the whole idea of all of us being related to one another. It was definitely an eye opener and made me look at everyone else in the world differently - almost as if I am seeing my brothers and sisters around every corner! The enduring capacity of mitochondrial DNA, and the fact that it stays pure for centuries, was also a gripping concept - and made me realise the power of DNA and our genes.

A must read for anyone who is fascinated by genetics. It even made me consider genetics for a future degree!
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
The blurb goes on about it being passionate and bubbly and whatever, but don't be put off.. it really is good! It's a rare example of a science book which is hard to put down in the way a 'good read' should be, but is more informative than many pop science books come near.
In brief the book covers what he looked for (identifiable patterns in mitochondrial DNA); what he found (they exist, and are special because they only pass from mother to child); and what that means (he could prove not only that we're all related but how, when and where). He talks about his excitement at the 'we're all related' factor, and although I started out cynical, or rather apathetic, I was excited too by the end of the book. If you're a 'Helena', then you descend from the same great.... grandmother as anyone else with that marker, which could be your bloke, your dad (as well as your mum), your girlfriend, the bloke selling the big issue on the corner, the confused-looking people on the telly in some Baghdad hospital... when you start thinking about the implications, it gives you a rather funny feeling, and that is what Sykes says is the whole point of the work he does.
And even if fluffy we-are-all-one feelings are not for you, I bet you'd be fascinated by the information the book contains!
Oh - and as a painless primer in pre-history it's not half bad either.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable read 20 Dec 2001
By A Customer
Having gone through a list of Cavalli Sforza, Jared Diamond and Dawkins I stumbled across this book. I have to say that it was a really enjoyable read and something that for the most part held me to the end.
What I found too simplistic were the life stories of the seven daughters of Eve. What could have made this even more interesting would have been if he could have added the "daughters of Eve" from other continents. Admittedly he does have a genealogical tree depicting human history back to our African origins. Certainly a book to recommend to anyone.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Falls between two stools 31 July 2002
By A Customer
On the whole an entertaining account of how mitochondrial DNA has contributed to our understanding of human origins and dispersion. But the author is unclear as to whether he is writing the tale of what the DNA reveals about our past or an account of his own discoveries. There's a lot of dispensable stuff about research grants and conferences and way too much score settling with colleagues and rivals. Given that the he book is about the age and distribution of European population there should me more detail (and maps!) of how this works out and how it tallies with the archaeological record. Instead the book peters out into a series of nauseatingly winsome fictionalised accounts of the "daughters" lives which really don't belong in this book at all.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Changing the way we think about the past 14 Jun 2001
By A Customer
The Seven Daughters of Eve is going to change the way we think about European pre-histroy for ever. Sykes has shown how hard science can be used to deflate deeply cherished, often racist, theories of the development of human societies that have been built confidently upon the shaky foundations of fragmentary archaelogical and cultural data. In this rompingly good read, he puts a personal touch to a body of mooecular research that, in its own way, may prove as big a step forward in the study of pre-history as the 14C revolution was for the dating of archaeo-biological samples. Highly recommended for anyone interested in where they come from.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Daughters of Eve 22 July 2011
By SheenaM
This book was recommended to me during a discussion about feeling more comfortable among some groups of people rather than others. I really enjoyed it, it is all about the scientific experiments that discovered Mitochondrial D.N.A. It is really easy to read and is more like a novel than a scientific product, it is also quite amusing to read of the rivalry of the different groups of scientists. It explains that we have all descended from seven distinct women, who lived in the thousands of years since the last ice age, and they can tell this by our Mitochondrial D.N.A which is only passed mother to daughter. In saying that, it means that we are possibly more comfortable with those people who come from the same group as ourselves, and as there are apparently only seven groups we have a lot of relatives.The book explains how one of the study group had the same D.N.A as a prehistoric man found in Cheddar Gorge, and how the D.N.A was extracted from those prehistoric bones. Bryan Sykes writes very enthusiastically and I have re-read this book several times.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars My 5th to date! Great present.
Published 24 days ago by Tony Bambrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Important Book
I've been studying the Hebrew Torah, trying to determine the nature of all things and understand the world and universe in which we live from the creators words and spirit.... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Yonah George
5.0 out of 5 stars "he seven daughters of Eve"Bryan Sykes
The story of human females which is separate from the men's story, and both can trace their separate historys from Africa to today into different countrys after leaving Africa.
Published 5 months ago by Ms. C. B. Mclaglen
5.0 out of 5 stars An education
I found this book compelling, fascinating, an enjoyable read and an education in itself. What is wonderful about this book is that Bryan Sykes explains and teaches us about DNA and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Gary Selikow
5.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Daughters of Eve
A good read. A well written "history" of the human race and its evolution from a location in Africa using our genetic fingerprint as the root for the evidence. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mikey
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating about our maternal lineage. An Amazon book.
A totally new approach to our ancestry.
Find your own haplo group. Where does your maternal line originate? Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ami Hjorth
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seven Daughters of Eve
So far this book is very interesting though there is still more to read which I look forward to in the coming days.
Published 12 months ago by Solveig McIntosh
5.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting book.
I chose it, because I knew it was a big bestseller,
and the reviews said that Bryan is a very good
writer, who knows how to make his subjects interesting. Read more
Published 13 months ago by K H
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL READ
a great book that gripped you from begging to end and made you think very hard of what you and your ancestors were.....couldn't put it down......
Published 14 months ago by MRS E A MUIR
5.0 out of 5 stars Capable genetic research
Because of other commitments, I am just in the introductory chapters. Currently, these chapters are an excellent re-introduction to my early university researches. Read more
Published 14 months ago by G. Ian Brace
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