Saturday, May 6, 2017

Book Review: The Gene

As the sub-title of this book describes, it is an intimate history of development of biological science with focus on genomics which is now getting prominence for its potential benefits to mankind.

The book begins with a prologue in which author (who originates from West Bengal, now resides in US) describes about three persons in his family over two generations diagnosed for mental disorders and could not lead normal lives. It is believed that genes carried these defects or the disease causing mechanism making it a hereditary disease. The blood of parents is not lost in you. However, defects may not come to surface in every member but yet it would use them as vehicles to come to life again in the next generation.

Then the next few chapters explore the efforts of scientists like Gregor Mendel to Charles Darwin (and many other scientists) in understanding the process of evolution and natural selection. These chapters are a fascinating read as the book touches most of the literature, theories developed and experiments devised over a period of few centuries and it establishes how this stream got developed into a full-fledged science and how each scientist built on the foundation laid by their predecessors.

Then the detailed study of genes follows through. Efforts to understand why they are sequenced in a particular way and how each is influencing the characteristics, be it in plant, animals or human beings. There is explanation of how the evolution played a role and how the nature nurtures this mechanism of passing the genes to their off-springs. If and how genes can be engineered to get the desired results and similar discussions form the rest of this book, which cannot be summarized in a blog post and I believe it requires reading full 500+ pages of this book. If this subject interests you, get it on your study table soon (if not done already).

Though this is a science non-fiction, this book uses a simple language and keeps the readers interested, thanks to the literary skills of the author cum scientist Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. He won the Pulitzer award for his previous book on the study of cancer. This book in an extended study of his previous book and would become one of the foundations pillars in the historical study of genes.