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