Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body

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Overview

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 dwarfs; a hairy family that was kept at the Burmese royal court for four ...
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Mutants: On Genetic Variety and the Human Body

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Overview

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 dwarfs; a hairy family that was kept at the Burmese royal court for four generations (and from which Darwin took one of his keenest insights into heredity); and the ostrich-footed Wadoma of the Zambezi River Valley.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a book that's as disturbing as it is enlightening, as unsettling as it is compelling, Leroi examines all sorts of genetic variability in humans and explains how that variability helps scientists understand the processes associated with human growth and development. Leroi, recipient of a Scientist for the New Century medal from the Royal Institution of Great Britain, demonstrates, in both text and pictures, that an enormous amount can go wrong as humans develop from fertilized eggs and progress toward old age. The missteps can result from genetic or environmental causes, with the latter occasionally responsible for the former. Although the subjects Leroi presents conjoined twins, individuals with cyclopia (a single eye), deformed or missing limbs, abnormal height, supernumerary breasts, an overabundance of body hair, piebald coloring often appear grotesque, he approaches all of his topics and each of his human subjects with great respect. Leroi uses each example to demonstrate the developmental lessons they illustrate: e.g., the role of fibroblast growth factors in the formation of limbs, the pituitary's impact on body size. By explaining that each of us carries hundreds of mutations within us, he asserts that we are not all that different from those who, on first glance, appear very disparate. Similarly, he effectively dismisses the belief that human races are anything more than a convenient social construct, establishing that there is no biological basis for such categorization. While the graphic pictures might deter some, they add immeasurably to the text. (Nov. 10) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
British scientist Leroi (evolutionary developmental biology, Imperial Coll.) has compiled an assemblage of human deformities recorded throughout history. This story of human mutants describes many of the bizarre monstrosities that result when the "normal" genetic instructions are not, or cannot, be translated correctly. (In the past, these people were frequently labeled freaks and exhibited to the curious public.) Teratologies leading to extra limbs, or no limbs, and conjoined bodies known as Siamese twins are vividly described. Dwarfs and giants are contrasted, the tragic errors of faulty sex development are elucidated, and hairiness in "dog-faced" people and other aspects of anomalous development are illustrated. While this is a highly readable narrative of bizarre developmental outcomes, Leroi admits that the mutations that cause these events are not understood or in too many cases even identified. It must be emphasized that we all possess mutations, but fortunately these mutations are not, for the most part, notably deleterious. Natalie Angier's Woman covers several of these conditions with greater clarity. Writing for the general reader, Leroi keeps technical aspects of the science to a minimum. Suitable for all public libraries where there is an interest in the history of science and medicine.-Rita Hoots, Woodland Coll., CA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670031108
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 11/10/2003
  • Pages: 448
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.56 (h) x 1.42 (d)

Meet the Author

Visit Armand Marie Leroi on the web: http://armandleroi.com/index.html

Armand Marie Leroi has lived in South Africa, Canada, and the United States. Since 1996, he has been a lecturer in evolutionary genetics at Imperial College, London. He has published widely in technical journals on evolutionary and developmental genetics and writes occasionally for the London Review of Books.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prologue
I Mutants (An introduction) 3
II A Perfect Join (On embryos) 23
III The Last Judgement (On first parts) 65
IV Cleppies (On arms and legs) 105
V Flesh of my Flesh, Bone of my Bone (On skeletons) 137
VI The War with the Cranes (On growth) 169
VII The Desire and Pursuit of the Whole (On gender) 217
VIII A Fragile Bubble (On skin) 247
IX The Sober Life (On ageing) 297
X Anthropometamorphosis (An epilogue) 335
Acknowledgements 357
Notes 359
Bibliography 389
Index 421
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 11 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 11 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 10, 2006

    Buy a dictionary

    I adore this book, but being only 15 my vocabulary isn't great. By page 16 my mom was sick of me asking her questions so she bought me an electronic dictionary. The book and the amount of research is beautiful, and I've even noticed some subtle humor in the text. i recommend this book to anyone who likes science, or is just bored.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2006

    WONDERFUL

    I was thrilled at the amount of research this author did and the knowledge. I could hardly put this book down yet i loved it so much I didn't want to read it too fast and be finished with it. I wrote the author and let him know how wonderful his book was and ask if there were others. he recommended Joan Roughgardens book Evolutions Rainbow. If you loved Mutant you will be amazed at Evolutions Rainbow. Joan has another one coming out soon, can hardly wait. Would also like to see more by the author of this book Mutant.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2013

    June

    Is taken there

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2013

    Rae

    Yall they changing meh into a cat.....should I be conscerned?

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Bodies

    Liter the floor

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 24, 2009

    A very interesting read!

    Mutants is a very interesting book. It covers a very wide range of genetic disorders. Each section is like a chronological run down of the history of a genetic disorder. It begins with the religious auguries and dogma surrounding the earliest occurances of a particular disorder, and by the end of a chapter, the reader has been informed of modern research and understanding of the disorder. The book touches on nerve cord formation, homeobox gene mutation, signal transduction, and other important topics in genetics. It is an intriguing book, some what like a series of Ripley's Believe It or Not episodes. I believe it entertains and educates. Do read if you are interested in conjoined twins, hirsutism, hermaphroditism, or other conditions. Not a study guide, but a very good book. Very well organized too.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 2, 2009

    Entertaining and informative read.

    Not only a interesting journey through the varieties of genetic and developmental difference, but also an examination of the causes and consequences of these differences.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2005

    Awesomely entertaining!

    This book details just about anything and EVERYTHING there is to know about genetic mutations. A real eye-opener, and a great book to learn random facts in!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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