sci_biologyJonesLanguage of Genesa remarkable ability to illustrate complex ideas simply, geneticist Jones takes the reader on a fascinating tour of the world of human genetics, explaining how the field began, the role genes play in shaping who and what we are, and the effects that new genetic discoveries have had on the basic theories of evolution.
bobrdimJONES. The Language of the GenesJones is Professor of Genetics at the Galton Laboratory, University College London. The first edition of this book was based on the Reith Lectures he gave in 1991. The Language of the Genes won both the Rhone-Poulenc prize for the best science book of [994 and the Yorkshire Post Prize for Best First Work. In 1996, the Royal Society presented him with the Michael Faraday Award, given annually to the scientist who has done the most to further the public understanding of science. Professor Jones was born in Wales, educated in Scotland and lives in London. He is author of two other books. In the Mood (1996) and Almost like a Whale (1999), co-editor of the Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Human Evolution and joint author of Genetics for Beginners and of the Open University' final-year genetics textbook. On balance he prefers snails to humans.Jones. The Language of the Genes0-00-655243-9A MALACOLOGIST'S APOLOGYhave spent — some might say wasted — most of my scientific career working on snails. A malacologist may seem an unlikely author for a book about human genetics. However, my research, when I was still able to do it, was not driven by a deep interest in molluscs. Indeed, one of the few occasions when I thought of giving up biology as a career was when I first had to dissect one. Thirty years ago snails were among the few creatures whose genes could be used to study evolution. They carry a statement of ancestry on their shells in the form of inherited patterns of colour and banding. By counting genes in different places and trying to relate them to the environment one could get an idea of how and why snail populations diverged from each other: of why and how they evolved.the time, the idea that it might ever be possible to do the same with humans seemed absurd. Genetics textbooks of the 1960s were routine things. They dealt with the inheritance of pea shape, the sex lives of fungi and the new discoveries about the molecular biology of viruses and their bacterial hosts. Of ourselves, there was scarcely a mention — usually just a short chapter tagged on at the cud which described pedigrees of abnormalities such as haemophilia or colour blindness.of this reticence was due to ignorance but part came from the dismal history of the subject. In its early days, the study of human inheritance was the haunt of charlatans, nio.st of whom had a political axe to grind. Absurd pedigrees purporting to show family lines of criminality or genius were the norm. Ignorance and confidence went together. Many biologists argued that it was possible to improve humankind by selective breeding or by the elimination of the unfit. The adulteration of the science reached its disastrous end in the Nazi experiment, and for many years it was seen as at best unfashionable to discuss the nature of inborn differences among people.the Second World War, the United Nations published a book — Statement of Race, by the American anthropologist Ashley Montagu — which tried to kill some of the genetical myths. I read this as a schoolboy and found it unpersuasive and hard in follow, although its liberal message was clear enough. Re-reading it a few years ago showed why: Ashley Montagu had tried, nobly, to make bricks without straw. The information needed to understand ourselves was simply nor available and there seemed little prospect that it ever would he. I luman genetics had moved from a series of malign to an equivalent set of pious opinions.everything has been transformed. Homo sapiens is no longer the great unknown of the genetical world but has become its workhorse. More is known about the geographical patterns of genes in people than about those of any other animal (snails, incidentally, still come second