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Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

Overview


Drawing the Map of Life is the dramatic story of the Human Genome Project from its origins, through the race to order the 3 billion subunits of DNA, to the surprises emerging as scientists seek to exploit the molecule of heredity. It’s the first account to deal in depth with the intellectual roots of the project, the motivations that drove it, and the hype that often masked genuine triumphs.

Distinguished science journalist Victor McElheny offers vivid, insightful profiles of ...

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Drawing the Map of Life: Inside the Human Genome Project

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Overview


Drawing the Map of Life is the dramatic story of the Human Genome Project from its origins, through the race to order the 3 billion subunits of DNA, to the surprises emerging as scientists seek to exploit the molecule of heredity. It’s the first account to deal in depth with the intellectual roots of the project, the motivations that drove it, and the hype that often masked genuine triumphs.

Distinguished science journalist Victor McElheny offers vivid, insightful profiles of key people, such as David Botstein, Eric Lander, Francis Collins, James Watson, Michael Hunkapiller, and Craig Venter. McElheny also shows that the Human Genome Project is a striking example of how new techniques (such as restriction enzymes and sequencing methods) often arrive first, shaping the questions scientists then ask.

Drawing on years of original interviews and reporting in the inner circles of biological science, Drawing the Map of Life is the definitive, up-to-date story of today’s greatest scientific quest. No one who wishes to understand genome mapping and how it is transforming our lives can afford to miss this book.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Veteran science journalist McElheny (Watson and DNA) concludes about the human genome project, the government-sponsored effort, completed in 2003, to decipher the entire human genome: "the big-scale science of genomics represents an explosion in knowledge that shows no sign of contracting." Indeed, the topic is huge and gets bigger with each passing year. By attempting to cover as much of the field as he does, McElheny makes it difficult for all readers to be fully informed: he lacks the necessary space to provide the detailed genomics background that would make the advances wholly comprehensible. Nonetheless, the author does two things very well. His description of the politics that led to the human genome project becoming the first megascale biology research program (akin in a number of ways to some large-scale physics projects supported by governmental funding) is clear and illuminating. Similarly, McElheny does an impressive job at explaining the current and future benefits likely to arise from the genetics data flooding into scientists’ laboratories. He is able to link pure research with medical advances, providing hope for concrete breakthroughs in individualized treatment while demonstrating that the money invested in this huge project has been well spent. (July)
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran science writer McElheny (Watson and DNA, 2003, etc.) chronicles the history of genomics research. A couple decades ago, the idea of the government supporting a project to map and sequence the whole human genome-locate where the genes are and specify the precise order of nucleotides that make up "the language of life"-was a gleam in the eye of a few stellar pioneers, but looked down upon by an equally stellar group of naysayers. With the advent of Big Biology in the '90s, however, massive amounts of money poured into the National Institutes of Health, which, along with the Department of Energy and foundations abroad, supported international teams at multiple laboratories. Then came private competition in the form of American biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter. McElheny devotes more than half the book to this narrative, which ends with the Clinton administration's announcement of the completion of first drafts of the human genome by both Venter and the NIH's Francis Collins in 2000. Throughout the book, the author provides well-developed profiles and anecdotes of the characters involved, but the real value is in McElheny's enumeration of the astonishing complexities in human and other genomes revealed by today's sophisticated technologies. Even the definition of a gene is no longer clear. There are split genes, noncoding sequences overlapping coded ones and much more, as well as lots of activity involving so-called junk DNA. Add epigenetics-the study of nongenetic factors that modify the action of genes-and scientists now have puzzles galore to inspire the next biological revolution. Not the book for detailed explications of the technology underlying the findings, but readers will appreciate the implications of the new learning on evolution, agriculture, energy and prospects for "personalized medicine."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465043330
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Series: A Merloyd Lawrence Book
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author


Victor K. McElheny, author of the much-acclaimed Watson and DNA, lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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