The Red Canary: The Story of the First Genetically Engineered Animal

Overview

The creation of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s was for many people the start of a new era: the age of genetically modified animals. However, the idea was not new, for in the 1920s an amateur scientist, Hans Duncker, decided to genetically engineer a red canary.

Favored originally for their voice, by the middle of the nineteenth century canaries had become so popular that millions were exported from Europe to the United States to satisfy demand. During the 1870s, English canary ...

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The Red Canary: The Story of the First Genetically Engineered Animal

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Overview

The creation of Dolly the sheep in the 1990s was for many people the start of a new era: the age of genetically modified animals. However, the idea was not new, for in the 1920s an amateur scientist, Hans Duncker, decided to genetically engineer a red canary.

Favored originally for their voice, by the middle of the nineteenth century canaries had become so popular that millions were exported from Europe to the United States to satisfy demand. During the 1870s, English canary breeders caused a scandal by feeding their birds red peppers to turn them orange. In the 1930s, Duncker’s genetics efforts caught the attention of the Nazi regime who saw him as a champion of their eugenic policies, even though his ingenious experiments were not successful.

Nonetheless, Duncker’s work paved the way thirty years later for an Englishman, Anthony Gill, and an American, Charles Bennett, to succeed, after recognizing that the red canary would need to be a product of both nature and nurture. In Tim Birkhead’s masterful hands, this highly original narrative reveals how the obsession of bird keepers turned the wild canary from green to red, and in the process, heralded exciting but controversial developments in genetic manipulation.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
 "A grand story." —Scientific American

"The Red Canary read like a fine novel." —Matt Ridley

“The attempt to get at what a bird sees, hears, feels and thinks is more than worth the effort because there are so many intriguing facts and stories that the reader learns along the way. Remarkable in [its] celebration of birds.” —James Gorman, The New York Times, on Bird Sense

“A collective portrait of birds that is deeply stirring and inspires awe at our own species and its capacity for such intense curiosity.” —Jonathan Rosen, The Wall Street Journal, on Bird Sense

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781620407578
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/6/2014
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 1,356,665
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Tim Birkhead is a professor at the University of Sheffield where he teaches animal behaviour and the history of science. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London and his research has taken him all over the world in the quest to understand the lives of birds. He has written for the Independent, New Scientist, BBC Wildlife. Among his other books are Promiscuity, Great Auk Islands, The Cambridge Encyclopaedia of Birds which won the McColvin medal, and most recently, Bird Sense. He is married with three children and lives in Sheffield, England.

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