A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

Book - 2017
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In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species--births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex. But those stories have always been locked away--until now. Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story--from 100,000 years ago to the present. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived will upend your thinking on Neanderthals, evolution, royalty, race, and even redheads. (For example, we now know that at least four human species once roamed the earth.) Plus, here is the remarkable, controversial story of how our genes made their way to the Americas--one that's still being written, as ever more of us have our DNA sequenced. Rutherford closes with "A Short Introduction to the Future of Humankind," filled with provocative questions that we're on the cusp of answering: Are we still in the grasp of natural selection? Are we evolving for better or worse? And . . . where do we go from here?
Publisher: New York : The Experiment, 2017.
ISBN: 9781615194049
Branch Call Number: 611.0181 Rut
Characteristics: xiv, 401 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Mukherjee, Siddhartha


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Jul 13, 2020

Very well explained.
On par with The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee and She Has Her Mother's Laugh by Carl Zimmer.
The three most interesting books on genetics.

Jan 12, 2020

I picked up the e-book because it related to gene science but realized that the title implied too wide a subject, that is, everybody who had ever lived. I stopped at 20% and could not get myself to wade through the rest. There were a few genetic and genealogical facts that caught my interest, and if you are new to either of these subjects, you may find it more informative. Rutherford writes in a pleasant, if a bit too wordy style, from a British perspective.

Dec 27, 2019

Disappointing, partly due to a wildly overblown title (whose fault, author or editor?). Rather than a thorough examination of human evolution comparable to classics such as Dawkins' "The Ancestors Tale", what we get is some bloglike episodes more akin to those of a chatty lecturer than the weighty textbook promised.
I have to agree with @mstenby, although his rating is too harsh. If you want a light read of articles about human evolution this is not bad, but it is the second disappointing offering from Dr Rutherford, who will now be dismissed from my reading list.

Mar 23, 2019

I am one of those people who spit in a tube and sent it off to a DNA online Website thinking, "Oh, now I am going to know everything about myself through my genes." Yes, I did get a few tid-bits about my heritage and ancestry but it is very broad. I read this book and found it more intriguing because he writes of the exploration of humankind. DNA tests offer only a wee peek at our roots, and the twisted evolving truth is far more thrilling. In the story it goes through migration patterns, interbreeding, isolation, and extinction of hominid branches that make up us; the human of now. Rutherford did a great job writing in a way that is thrilling and exciting about our species through a very wide lens that goes way back into our past. This is a very cool book, and if you are interested in genetics you will like it even more.

Mar 06, 2019

The book is not brief or a history, nor is it about everyone -- the title better fits David Reich's Who we are and how we got here -- but it is an entertaining and thoughtful introduction to human genomics and how it fits into other ways of understanding the human past.

Sep 20, 2018

The good news: there is very good, up-to-date information about the genetics and how it works.
The better news: good explanations about how to understand the genetic information, what it means and doesn't mean, and he points out ideas that are incorrectly drawn from genetics, both modern and historically.
Mr. Rutherford covers a lot of territory and sometimes his narrative is a bit scattered, but the writing is entertaining and it furthers a deeper understanding about how closely we are related as a species.
It is worth reading.

Mar 30, 2018

Nothing new here. Title is way overblown, as so is the author. You learn much more about author than "everyone who ever lived". He does make it clear that "everyone" is beneath him, however. Heaven help you if you are not royalty and actually have to work for a living.

Feb 07, 2018

I really liked this book, because it taught me some surprising and amazing things that we've learned via genomics about our human history. A few tidbits:
* Those of us of European descent are all related to the small percentage of human sapiens that left Africa.
* Those of us of European descent can chart a path back to an ancestor who was living in Europe around 900 AD. Four out of five people alive then gave birth, and those are the stock which has given rise to all of us of European descent. (At least, that's how I understood this point.)
* There was a lot of breeding across the branches of our family "tree," and so the tree is more of a map. As a consequence, we carry a lot of Neanderthal DNA in our genome.
* There are no true genetic markers for race. Because of our ancestry, for example, people who are descended from those who left Africa are more similar genetically than those who stayed. This means that a white and black person descended from those who left Africa early are likely more genetically similar to two African's from different parts of Africa.

Anyway, I'm sure I mangled some of those ideas, but I had several "oh man, that's an incredible idea!" kind of moments.

The author's language is also striking. He conveys his love of science with a poetic bent, but also describes the difficulties inherent in the scientific process to alleviate junk science and its misuse.


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