Books; April 2000; Scientific American Magazine; by Hamer, Staff Editors; 3 Page(s)
The human genome is becoming a celebrity. It already has its own fan magazines, in the form of two professional journals devoted exclusively to genome research, and its own Web sites, including www.gdb.org. It also has its own publicists, at the government's National Human Genome Research Institute and at the private company Celera Genomics. The unveiling of the first draft of its complete primary sequence-which Celera has promised to produce within the year-is as eagerly anticipated as the next Madonna album. Now, thanks to science writer Matt Ridley, it even has its own autobiography: Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters.
It is no surprise that Ridley, an avid proponent of the Darwinian view of the world, perceives the genome not as a cookbook or a manual but as a quintessentially historical document-a threebillion-year memoir of our species from its beginnings in the primal ooze to the present day. The first popular book written by Ridley, who has a Ph.D. in zoology and covered science for The Economist for nine years, was The Red Queen, an engrossing account of sexual selection. His second volume, The Origins of Virtue, delved into the sociobiology of good and evil. Genome continues the author's interest in evolution and at the same time offers excursions into molecular biology, medicine and biotechnology.