On Genetic Variety and the Human Body

Book - 2003
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"Who are the mutants? We are all mutants. But some of us are more mutant than others." Variety, even deformity, may seem like an unlikely route by which to approach normality, even perfection. Yet much of what we know about the mechanisms of human development, growth, and aging comes from the study of people who are afflicted with congenital diseases, most of which have genetic causes. Congenital abnormalities reveal not only errors within the womb, but also our evolutionary history. In Mutants, Armand Marie Leroi gives a brilliant narrative account of our genetic grammar and the people whose bodies have revealed it, balancing both the science and the stories behind some of history's most captivating figures-including a French convent girl who found herself changing sex upon puberty; children who, echoing Homer's Cyclops, are born with a single eye in the middle of their foreheads; a village of long-lived Croatian dwarves; a hairy family who was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations (and from whom Darwin took one of his keenest insights into heredity); and the ostrich-footed Wadoma of the Zambezi River Valley. Stepping effortlessly from myth to molecular biology, this elegant, humane, and illuminating book is about us all.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2003.
ISBN: 9780670031108
Branch Call Number: 616 LER
Characteristics: xv, 431 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.


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May 02, 2013

I really liked this book, it's my first candidate for favorite book I read in 2013. Written extremely well, this COULD have been a sensationalist book, full of hermaphrodites, "wolf-boys," and (emphasis on the quotes) "freaks." It isn't, though, it's a serious discussion about why these things happen, with easy-to-understand explanations of the science behind it, and humanizing descriptions of how the people behind the "freak" labels live with their differences. Powerful, fascinating, riveting stuff.


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