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Summary

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities....

But, Zimmer writes, 'Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, travelling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are - our appearance, our height, our penchants - in inconceivably subtle ways.' Heredity isn’t just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors - using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates - but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is, and, through Carl Zimmer’s lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it.

Weaving together historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world’s best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.

©2018 Carl Zimmer (P)2018 Macmillan Digital Audio

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  • Bernard van Biljon
  • 05-11-18

Avoid this book.

This is what you get when a non-scientist tries to write a science book. More boring than watching paint dry.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Ras
  • 14-10-20

Very poor

This book is narrated exquisitely but that's all I can praise. The book is like a giant introduction section where you patiently hope for the main part which never comes! This is the most trivial book I have ever witnessed on the topic. It is full of anectodes which go nowhere! I am struggling to understand what is the point of all these stories about the science of genetics. I can't understand how this book is rated well by others. It is neither informative nor enjoyable.

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  • Kerryn
  • 05-07-20

Super informative

Great history and understanding of heredity from a variety of interconnected disciplines. A good general overview with some amazing (and sometimes heartbreaking) stories.

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  • Donagh
  • 19-11-18

Engaging and interesting through out

Highly informative and well written. It provides a good historical grounding to recent developments, but particularly good on the Eugenics blind spot.

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  • Felix Andrews
  • 25-08-18

Horizon-expanding

Don’t miss this book. Carl Zimmer’s goal is to cast the continuation of life, the formation of organisms, what he calls “inheritance”, as a much broader and multifaceted concept than we are used to. Half history, half cutting edge science, but all explained with his signature clarity and verve.

Unfortunately the reading on the audio book is a little distracting: every sentence is emphasised, even those that are background or leading up to the main point.