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The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives

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Overview


A tiny scrap of genetic information determines our sex; it also consigns many of us to a life of disease, directs or disrupts the everyday working of our bodies, and forces women to live as genetic chimeras. The culprit--so necessary and yet the source of such upheaval--is the X chromosome, and this is its story. An enlightening and entertaining tour of the cultural and natural history of this intriguing member of the genome, The X in Sex traces the journey toward our current understanding of the nature of X. ...
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THE X IN SEX

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Overview


A tiny scrap of genetic information determines our sex; it also consigns many of us to a life of disease, directs or disrupts the everyday working of our bodies, and forces women to live as genetic chimeras. The culprit--so necessary and yet the source of such upheaval--is the X chromosome, and this is its story. An enlightening and entertaining tour of the cultural and natural history of this intriguing member of the genome, The X in Sex traces the journey toward our current understanding of the nature of X. From its chance discovery in the nineteenth century to the promise and implications of ongoing research, David Bainbridge shows how the X evolved and where it and its counterpart Y are going, how it helps assign developing human babies their sex--and maybe even their sexuality--and how it affects our lives in infinitely complex and subtle ways. X offers cures for disease, challenges our cultural, ethical, and scientific assumptions about maleness and femaleness, and has even reshaped our views of human evolution and human nature.
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Editorial Reviews

Washington Post

Bainbridge is an essentialist, interested in understanding what aspects of gender are biologically driven, and why...He has a central question he wants to answer. The question is not so much why men and women are different (a worn topic that's the subject of too many Mars-and-Venus bestsellers) but, far more specific and far more interesting: Why are men and women more different than they need to be?
— Liza Mundy

Booklist

Bainbridge summarizes our knowledge of the genetic information that determines one's sex by recounting the ancients' speculations about the genesis of gender, following with modern biologists' discovery of the X and Y chromosomes about a century ago, and of the sex-determining gene Sry in the 1990s. In a discussion rich with history, evolution, and philosophy, Bainbridge points out the dramatic effect that gender selection has on people's lives...A fascinating, often humorous analysis of the science of sexuality.
— Gilbert Taylor

New York Times Book Review

In The X in Sex, David Bainbridge explains the far-reaching effects of X. Bainbridge...moves with ease between straightforward accounts of biology and historical stories about its effect, like the chapter describing the progression of hemophilia through the royal houses of Europe. Bainbridge discusses cultural history as well as natural history, and his wit enlivens every page.
— Christine Kenneally

Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)

There are many literary stars (such as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley) in the firmament of writers on evolution, and to a man they write with dash and persuasive logic. David Bainbridge is one such and in his latest book he takes the reader through the glories of the X chromosome at a cracking pace.
— Miriam Stoppard

New Scientist (UK)

The truth is that the behaviours of [chromosomes] X and Y are inextricably linked. Bainbridge explores this link in a compelling tale that takes in how the sex chromosomes became sex chromosomes, and the very different consequences of this for women and men. Along the way we encounter the Duke of Kent's testicles, calico cats and non-identical identical twin girls. His story weaves science, history and the history of science (with a little religion for good measure) in a straightforward, anecdotal fashion that will appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike.
— Mark T. Ross

Choice

In his structure/function analysis of the X chromosome, Bainbridge provides a tongue-in-cheek, yet informative, description of one of the two human sex chromosomes.
— R. Adler

Times Literary Supplement

If you have ever been intrigued by some of the puzzles of genetics—why boys tend to get haemophilia or colour blindness while girls are more likely to have an identical twin or to develop rheumatoid arthritis later in life—then The X in Sex is for you.
— Chris Tyler-Smith

Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Heath Care

This highly readable book tells the story of the X chromosome from Aristotle's musings on gender differences right through to a modern understanding of the genetics of the X chromosome. The author's engaging style makes modern genetics accessible both of the complete layperson and to those of us for whom preclinical genetics are a hazy memory…In a chapter entitled "The Duke of Kent's Testicles", Bainbridge describes the unfortunate spread of haemophilia (sic) through19th century European Royal families to illustrate the inheritance of sex-linked disorders. From a disastrous random mutation in a sperm in one of the Duke's testicles to the Russian Revolution, the history is irreverent but the genetic implications are well illustrated…This slim book is a good read, amusing yet informative and authoritative.
— Alex Connan

New York Review of Books

David Bainbridge's The X in Sex prove[s] that popular books on human genetics—indeed on human sex chromosomes—need not trade in sociobiological excess...He spends much of his time on 'sex-linked' conditions that affect men more than women; these range from annoyances like baldness to devastating diseases like muscular dystrophy. Bainbridge also devotes many fascinating pages to complex ailments like autoimmune disease that, for reasons which remain unclear, disproportionately afflict women...But Bainbridge's chief concern is with the biology of human sex determination and with the many ways in which it can, and does, go wrong. In the end, his message is that while human beings obviously come in two predominant sexes, both cultural and biological forces give rise to a surprisingly 'continuous spectrum of gender.'
— H. Allen Orr

Jane Lancaster
The X in Sex is absolutely fascinating, so intriguing, in fact, that I found myself unwilling to put it down. David Bainbridge surveys an astonishing amount of new information from recent genomic studies of the X chromosome, clearly explaining the findings in a way the average person can easily follow. The science is presented via amusing and highly appropriate metaphors and clever turns of phrase, all of which serve to brighten the prose and present the reader with catchy ways to think about complex ideas. This is an informative, authoritative, and thoroughly enjoyable read: one of the best books I have read in recent years.
Tim Birkhead
This is wonderful stuff--beautifully written, clear, jargon-free, with anecdotes sure to hold the attention.
Washington Post - Liza Mundy
Bainbridge is an essentialist, interested in understanding what aspects of gender are biologically driven, and why...He has a central question he wants to answer. The question is not so much why men and women are different (a worn topic that's the subject of too many Mars-and-Venus bestsellers) but, far more specific and far more interesting: Why are men and women more different than they need to be?
Booklist - Gilbert Taylor
Bainbridge summarizes our knowledge of the genetic information that determines one's sex by recounting the ancients' speculations about the genesis of gender, following with modern biologists' discovery of the X and Y chromosomes about a century ago, and of the sex-determining gene Sry in the 1990s. In a discussion rich with history, evolution, and philosophy, Bainbridge points out the dramatic effect that gender selection has on people's lives...A fascinating, often humorous analysis of the science of sexuality.
New York Times Book Review - Christine Kenneally
In The X in Sex, David Bainbridge explains the far-reaching effects of X. Bainbridge...moves with ease between straightforward accounts of biology and historical stories about its effect, like the chapter describing the progression of hemophilia through the royal houses of Europe. Bainbridge discusses cultural history as well as natural history, and his wit enlivens every page.
Times Higher Education Supplement (UK) - Miriam Stoppard
There are many literary stars (such as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley) in the firmament of writers on evolution, and to a man they write with dash and persuasive logic. David Bainbridge is one such and in his latest book he takes the reader through the glories of the X chromosome at a cracking pace.
New Scientist (UK) - Mark T. Ross
The truth is that the behaviours of [chromosomes] X and Y are inextricably linked. Bainbridge explores this link in a compelling tale that takes in how the sex chromosomes became sex chromosomes, and the very different consequences of this for women and men. Along the way we encounter the Duke of Kent's testicles, calico cats and non-identical identical twin girls. His story weaves science, history and the history of science (with a little religion for good measure) in a straightforward, anecdotal fashion that will appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike.
Choice - R. Adler
In his structure/function analysis of the X chromosome, Bainbridge provides a tongue-in-cheek, yet informative, description of one of the two human sex chromosomes.
Times Literary Supplement - Chris Tyler-Smith
If you have ever been intrigued by some of the puzzles of genetics--why boys tend to get haemophilia or colour blindness while girls are more likely to have an identical twin or to develop rheumatoid arthritis later in life--then The X in Sex is for you.
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Heath Care - Alex Connan
This highly readable book tells the story of the X chromosome from Aristotle's musings on gender differences right through to a modern understanding of the genetics of the X chromosome. The author's engaging style makes modern genetics accessible both of the complete layperson and to those of us for whom preclinical genetics are a hazy memory…In a chapter entitled "The Duke of Kent's Testicles", Bainbridge describes the unfortunate spread of haemophilia (sic) through19th century European Royal families to illustrate the inheritance of sex-linked disorders. From a disastrous random mutation in a sperm in one of the Duke's testicles to the Russian Revolution, the history is irreverent but the genetic implications are well illustrated…This slim book is a good read, amusing yet informative and authoritative.
New York Review of Books - H. Allen Orr
David Bainbridge's The X in Sex prove[s] that popular books on human genetics--indeed on human sex chromosomes--need not trade in sociobiological excess...He spends much of his time on 'sex-linked' conditions that affect men more than women; these range from annoyances like baldness to devastating diseases like muscular dystrophy. Bainbridge also devotes many fascinating pages to complex ailments like autoimmune disease that, for reasons which remain unclear, disproportionately afflict women...But Bainbridge's chief concern is with the biology of human sex determination and with the many ways in which it can, and does, go wrong. In the end, his message is that while human beings obviously come in two predominant sexes, both cultural and biological forces give rise to a surprisingly 'continuous spectrum of gender.'
Washington Post
Bainbridge is an essentialist, interested in understanding what aspects of gender are biologically driven, and why...He has a central question he wants to answer. The question is not so much why men and women are different (a worn topic that's the subject of too many Mars-and-Venus bestsellers) but, far more specific and far more interesting: Why are men and women more different than they need to be?
— Liza Mundy
Booklist
Bainbridge summarizes our knowledge of the genetic information that determines one's sex by recounting the ancients' speculations about the genesis of gender, following with modern biologists' discovery of the X and Y chromosomes about a century ago, and of the sex-determining gene Sry in the 1990s. In a discussion rich with history, evolution, and philosophy, Bainbridge points out the dramatic effect that gender selection has on people's lives...A fascinating, often humorous analysis of the science of sexuality.
— Gilbert Taylor
New York Times Book Review
In The X in Sex, David Bainbridge explains the far-reaching effects of X. Bainbridge...moves with ease between straightforward accounts of biology and historical stories about its effect, like the chapter describing the progression of hemophilia through the royal houses of Europe. Bainbridge discusses cultural history as well as natural history, and his wit enlivens every page.
— Christine Kenneally
Times Higher Education Supplement (UK)
There are many literary stars (such as Stephen Jay Gould, Richard Dawkins and Matt Ridley) in the firmament of writers on evolution, and to a man they write with dash and persuasive logic. David Bainbridge is one such and in his latest book he takes the reader through the glories of the X chromosome at a cracking pace.
— Miriam Stoppard
New Scientist (UK)
The truth is that the behaviours of [chromosomes] X and Y are inextricably linked. Bainbridge explores this link in a compelling tale that takes in how the sex chromosomes became sex chromosomes, and the very different consequences of this for women and men. Along the way we encounter the Duke of Kent's testicles, calico cats and non-identical identical twin girls. His story weaves science, history and the history of science (with a little religion for good measure) in a straightforward, anecdotal fashion that will appeal to scientists and non-scientists alike.
— Mark T. Ross
Choice
In his structure/function analysis of the X chromosome, Bainbridge provides a tongue-in-cheek, yet informative, description of one of the two human sex chromosomes.
— R. Adler
Times Literary Supplement
If you have ever been intrigued by some of the puzzles of genetics--why boys tend to get haemophilia or colour blindness while girls are more likely to have an identical twin or to develop rheumatoid arthritis later in life--then The X in Sex is for you.
— Chris Tyler-Smith
Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Heath Care
This highly readable book tells the story of the X chromosome from Aristotle's musings on gender differences right through to a modern understanding of the genetics of the X chromosome. The author's engaging style makes modern genetics accessible both of the complete layperson and to those of us for whom preclinical genetics are a hazy memory…In a chapter entitled "The Duke of Kent's Testicles", Bainbridge describes the unfortunate spread of haemophilia (sic) through19th century European Royal families to illustrate the inheritance of sex-linked disorders. From a disastrous random mutation in a sperm in one of the Duke's testicles to the Russian Revolution, the history is irreverent but the genetic implications are well illustrated…This slim book is a good read, amusing yet informative and authoritative.
— Alex Connan
New York Review of Books
David Bainbridge's The X in Sex prove[s] that popular books on human genetics--indeed on human sex chromosomes--need not trade in sociobiological excess...He spends much of his time on 'sex-linked' conditions that affect men more than women; these range from annoyances like baldness to devastating diseases like muscular dystrophy. Bainbridge also devotes many fascinating pages to complex ailments like autoimmune disease that, for reasons which remain unclear, disproportionately afflict women...But Bainbridge's chief concern is with the biology of human sex determination and with the many ways in which it can, and does, go wrong. In the end, his message is that while human beings obviously come in two predominant sexes, both cultural and biological forces give rise to a surprisingly 'continuous spectrum of gender.'
— H. Allen Orr
The Washington Post
I'm not sure that Bainbridge ever answers the central question of why men and women are so very different, but he does tell us how our differentiation happens. Left to its own devices, an embryo will be female; what the Y chromosome does is generate hormones that dry up the incipient Fallopian tubes and, among other things, cause the gonads to pop out of the body. It's interesting to know that being female is the body's default drive; but after reading Bainbridge, why one sex would want to become the other is hard to fathom. We all seem to be doing pretty badly as we are, thanks very much. — Liza Mundy
Publishers Weekly
In his fourth-century BCE Generation of Animals, Aristotle wondered what made us into males and females, and the question has vexed scientists ever since. Bainbridge (Making Babies) shows that the answers are at last partly illuminated, thanks to advances in our understanding of the mechanisms at work in sex chromosomes. He debunks once and for all Aristotle's notion that maleness, and hence the Y chromosome, is a more active, superior state of being, and instead hails the X chromosome as more profound, interesting and powerful-not just more than its "sad, shrunken" Y counterpart, but more than any other chromosome in our cells. First explaining how the sex chromosomes-which he calls the "seeds of sexiness"-turn undifferentiated embryonic tissue into testicles or allow the formation of ovaries, Bainbridge goes on to demonstrate how the X chromosome is actually in control of the process. Examples throughout the animal kingdom and instances of humans with anomalous chromosome lineups (like XXY or XO) show X's role in sex determination, autoimmune and sex-linked diseases. Bainbridge also reveals how women's cells "deal with the double bounty of X chromosomes," why girl identical twins are less identical and less rare than boy identical twins, and how studying women's tumors showed scientists that cancer begins in a "lone, fatal" cell. With first-rate research and winning, dry wit, Bainbridge crafts a slim volume of science made simple. 4 line illustrations. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Despite the catchy title, this isn't really an exploitive or explicit book. Instead, it is a well-written, well-researched, easy-to-read study that explains what has been learned about the X and Y chromosomes using DNA sequencing and other molecular biology techniques. British biologist Bainbridge (Making Babies: The Science of Pregnancy) has pulled together historical and current scientific research about how the X and Y chromosomes affect us and what the genes on these chromosomes actually do, like causing sex-linked diseases and color blindness. For readers new to the subject, there are even basic discussions defining DNA and chromosomes. Bainbridge tries to take an unbiased scientific view of male/female differences based on the differences in genes and development and covers many of the ethical issues that surface when sex selection and genetic engineering are discussed. "Further Reading" for each section provides references to actual papers, with annotations that clarify what each paper covers. An excellent example of good science writing that will also appeal to general readers, this is recommended for most libraries.-Margaret Henderson, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Lib., NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of Making Babies (2001) takes a lively, witty tour of the X chromosome, creator of "a delicious asymmetry between men and women." Bainbridge (Comparative Anatomy and Physiology/Royal Veterinary College, London) begins by introducing an embryo that has not yet become either a boy or a girl baby and demonstrating how, for humans, the specialized X and Y sex chromosomes come into play. The default sex of an embryo is female; the presence of a Y chromosome is necessary to turn it into a male. While at first Y might seem the more powerful of the sex chromosomes, it is nearly empty of genes and almost incapable of doing anything other than control sex. Its counterpart, X, however, has profound effects on our lives and well-being. Bainbridge poses two questions: How do males cope with having just one X chromosome? How do females cope with having two? In a chapter on sex-linked diseases bearing the inspired title "The Duke of Kent’s Testicles," he relates how hemophilia, a blood-clotting disorder transmitted by a damaged X chromosome, spread through certain royal families of Europe. Whereas girls inheriting this damaged X are protected by their spare, undamaged X chromosome, boys, having but a single X, become the victims of a life-threatening disease. Female bodies, on the other hand, says Bainbridge, lead a kind of double life owing to the X chromosome. Except for the germ cells, which later give rise to eggs, every cell in the female embryo switches off one of its X chromosomes, apparently at random. This makes every female body a complex mosaic: half the cells have an X chromosome from the mother, half from the father. Within this entertaining and informative, if slightly too briefaccount, the author intersperses two essays on the biology of the X chromosome; an epilogue considers some of the ramifications of sex selection. A fine demonstration of science made accessible. (4 line drawings)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674016217
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2004
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Bainbridge is University Clinical Veterinary Anatomist at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St. Catharine's College.
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Table of Contents

Prologue

1. Making a Difference

Interlude: What Is It, Exactly?

2. The Duke of Kent's Testicles

Interlude: How Sexy Is X?

3. The Double Life of Women

Epilogue: The Chosen One

Further Reading

Glossary

Index

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2006

    WOW

    This was a wonderful read. I came across it in the lib one day, and i thought it was 'interesting'. I had just read MIDDLESEX, another great book, and this was great to follow up with. Any-hoooo! The book is phenomenal, regardless of whether you are a 'science' person or not. I'm not, and i loved it! Great read! FACINATING

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    Posted December 21, 2008

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    Posted January 26, 2010

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