The Seven Daughters Of Eve Paperback – 1 Sep 2004
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
Like other reviewers the sheer elegance of the central idea of being (90% likely for Europeans) descended from one of seven women is compelling. the science is built up fairly simply (I did O level biology a long time ago!) and the way the theory of mitochondrial inheritance grows from the chance experiences of the team is a good read.
The writing style is also very accessible and did not turn me off from the book at all.
I had to pause and think hard in a couple of places, and would love the opportunity to understand some of the fine detail (why did the Eve's have two daughters each still gets me thinking).
I was also surprised by the insight into academia and the in-fighting that goes in which threatened to bury theory more than once. Although only told from one side, it came across as quite scary that the rightness of the idea was less important than the reputation of others in the scientific world. I am left wondering how much good science gets discarded by the challenge of surviving the peer review process and the personalities therein. On the other hand one could argue that anything that becomes accepted science has been well challenged and stands up to scrutiny so is better.
Anyway, if you ever wondered about where your mother's mother's mother's.....mother came from, read this book!
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This book answers a lot of questions but stimulates a lot more!Published 3 months ago by Y. Hardwick
Great read. Explains so much about DNA and chromosomes in language for the layman.Published 3 months ago by malcolm1948
What I believe is the first of the books about genealogical historic DNA and a really good read with food for thought.Published 4 months ago by homemoviegoer
Excellent scientific knowledge but in understandable format. The stories he tells at the end were fun.Published 4 months ago by Mia
This is a readable book on a complex subject and the author is chatty and plausible. I think he may have taken things too far and I wouldn't agree with his conclusion that all... Read morePublished 10 months ago by DAVID TRUE
Makes a great gift for racists. Bought it for someone who had been fed a diet of puerile nonsense with no scientific background. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Rose Green
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