A Brief History Of Everyone Ever Lived

by Adam Rutherford

Paperback, 2017

Status

Available

Call number

611.0181663

Publication

W&N (2017)

Description

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?… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member markm2315
A discussion of mostly human genetics by a British geneticist and broadcaster that looks at genetics from a broad viewpoint with emphasis on modern findings from analysis of our genome. Like many science books for non-scientific readers, there are many digressions and explanations increasing
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readability and leading to some disorganization.

Topics discussed include:
The seven species of genus Homo that we know about and our relationship to them. So-called cavemen were not hunched over.
The early inhabitants of continental Europe and Britain. Lactose intolerance. Blue eye color. Red hair. The absence of Danish DNA in the British genome.
Iceland. Its history and genetics.
The Plague. Its history and genetics.
American Indians. Their history and genetics. The Havasupai. Kennewick man. Alcoholism.
Genetic genealogy companies. How misleading are their advertisements and results? The web-like nature of any sufficiently long family tree, or we are all cousins. Furthermore, all sufficiently ancient people, if they had offspring, are everyone’s ancestor.
The discovery of the remains of Richard III. An estimate that out of 100 people, two were not sired by their apparent father.
Jack the Ripper.
Inbreeding in the Hapsburg dynasty. The inbreeding coefficient, F. Inbreeding in the Darwin family, Pakistanis, Roma, Icelanders, Jews, Finns, Persians, Indians.
The work of Francis Galton. Eugenics.
The concept of Race and the genetic indications that it does not exist. Adaptionism or Panglossianism. Types of earwax. Linkage disequilibrium. The EDAR gene. Tay Sachs disease. That if a typical Caucasian encounters two random Negroes, the Negroes are likely to be more genetically different from each other than either is from the Caucasian. The fallacy of African American traits deriving from slavery.
The Human Genome Project. The definition of a gene and how many do we have? The exome is less than 2% of our total DNA. Transcription factors, introns, and pseudogenes. An excellent analogy using a progressively modified English sentence to show how our DNA is organized (or how it isn’t).
The evolution of the biblical Hebrew word alma into the Greek Parthenos into the English “virgin”.
The evolution of our understanding of diseases and traits that were formerly thought to be simple
Mendelian, e.g. tongue rolling and cystic fibrosis.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and the mystery of the missing heritability. Manhattan plots.
The misuse of genetic findings in criminal law. Monoamine oxidase A. The examination of the genome of the Sandy Hook murderer. Typical newspaper articles entitled, “Science discovers the gene for...”
Epigenetics. The Hongerwinter. An excellent analogy of the performance of a musical score by an orchestra over time for epigenetics. Methylization of cytosine.
The current and future evolution of our species. Tetrachromatic vision. Sensitivity to succinylcholine in the Vaishya. Infant mortality rates.

Words of interest include: gigglemug and ackamarackus.

Other notes:
The Forer effect (Bertram Forer). People conclude that broadly true statements are accurate for themselves personally. The way that astrology or the I Ching works.

Betteridge’s Law. If a headline poses a question, the answer is likely to be no.

The color scheme of pink for boys’ bedrooms and blue for girls was common in Victorian England.

"In the early 20th century the 5000 meters race was dominated by Finns. A German writer wrote that “Running is certainly in the blood of every Finn...[They] are like animals in the forest.”" [This reminds me of those in the early 20th century in the US who claimed that the Irish had a genetic proclivity for playing baseball, and incredible as it seems today, similar comments were made about Jews and basketball in the 1930s.]
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
This should have been a good book, but is spoiled by sloppy writing and the lack of an editor.
The author seems to know his stuff, and he has interesting things to stay, but he doesn't say them particularly well. Two things particularly irritated me - wandering sentences where the subject and object
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and meaning get hopelessly separated; and wandering digressions that drift from the intent of the book (it even seemed that some of the content had been dictated, possible after dinner). In addition, the reader gets the sense that some of the content was written for other purposes, and the chapters/sections have been cobbled into use in this volume.
All of these problems in the writing could have been cured by an editor. The sentence construction could have been tightened, simplified and ambiguities removed. Similarly, the digressions could have been pruned. And the overlap and repetition of the disparate sections could have tidied up. Easily. Then the book would have been more fun to read.
There would still be some difficulties. A core of the book is the statistical analysis of genetic information. Sadly, statistic is clearly not the forte of Rutherford. He presents the findings of others, but is unable to make the numbers sing, or to find the example or metaphor that would make the analysis light up for a lay reader.
But, I'm glad I read the book, and I look forward to future books by Rutherford - as long as the publisher invests in an editor.
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LibraryThing member lostinalibrary
DNA has been much in the new in the last couple of decades – questions about eg. the future of redheads or the existence of a ‘warrior’ gene and its recent use in court cases. Geneticist Adam Rutherford looks at these and many more issues in his fascinating and highly readable book A Brief
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History of Everyone Who Ever Lived. He talks about the Human Genome Project and its importance to science as well as the rise of genetic testing companies like 23 and Me (he had himself tested with mostly unsurprising results). He also writes about race which doesn’t exist and racism which does and how so many white supremacists are having their DNA tested to often disappointing (for them) results.

As is pointed out in the cover blurb to this book, the history of our species from its beginning to the present is written in our genes – an ‘epic poem in our cells’ – and Rutherford tells it very well, making it not only interesting but accessible to even those like me without a scientific background but with a curiousity to know more about who we are, where we came from, and where we are likely heading. As he shows, we have adapted genetically in wonderful ways that are ‘fit for purpose’ – anyone who may be hoping that we will eventually sprout wings so that we can fly without airline tickets are probably going to be disappointed. Most of all, he shows that our genes prove that we humans are unique and special just like all other species.

Thanks to Netgalley and The Experiment for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review
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LibraryThing member annbury
This book traces the history of homo sapiens through our DNA. It is mostly about genetics and genomics, and is addressed to the lay reader. This doesn't make it an easy read, but I found it a worthwhile one. The key point that it brought home to me was just how complicated human genetics really
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are. The idea of a "cancer gene" or an "intelligence gene" vastly oversimplifies; Rutherford makes it clear that many, many different genes affect most traits (including susceptibility to most diseases) rather than the simple one-to-one equivalence that a lot of popular writing implies. I found it an informative and accessible read about a complex subject.
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LibraryThing member benjfrank
This was an overview of human ancestry and genetics by a British scientist currently doing work in that discipline. Interesting, understandable, and readable. I enjoyed it.
LibraryThing member adzebill
Very readable and principled overview of human genetics, particularly the bogus statements made by genetic-testing ancestry companies.
LibraryThing member LynnB
Adam Rutherford uses DNA as source material to provide this history of human beings: how we came to be and who we are now. As a non-scientist, I found it, at times, a bit hard to follow...but mostly very readable and even humourous at times. It provides a good reality check on the expectations we
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place on genetic mapping. On the other hand, it ignores the whole discussion of how much information we would want to know on a personal basis -- linking our ability to know with having the resources to do anything with the information. And even though I don't subscribe to creationism, I found his rant against it over the top and unnecessarily vitriolic
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LibraryThing member drmaf
Interesting book about the developments in the study of the genetics and DNA of the human race, presented in a light and quippy style, although jargon is not absent and it requires a fair bit of close attention to comprehend the scientific concepts being presented. There are lost of interesting
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throwaways, such as everyone of European descent being related to Charlemagne, and the fact that we all carry Neanderthal DNA because, well, as soon as our ancestors and the Neanderthals met they got busy, frequently and enthusiastically. he also shreds the misconceptions that people place on the trendy modern practice of sending your DNA off in a envelope to have your genome traced and tell you if you are of Viking descent (fact: everyone of European descent has some Viking DNA). Overall a wonderfully entertaining and informative book, one of the best I have read on genetics for a while.
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LibraryThing member Faradaydon
Witty, engrossing. Rutherford could have overwhelmed the reader with his erudition, but he's woven a story accessible to everyone.
LibraryThing member PDCRead
Genetically you are unique.

However, there is nothing particularly special about being unique if everyone else is…

In your 23 base pairs of DNA there are around 20,000 human protein-coding genes. To put this in perspective, a banana has 36,000... The first complete draft of the sequence was
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published on February 12th 2001. Being able to read this code of T C G A’s is one thing; being able to understand it is another, and we are nowhere near being able to manipulate it yet either. This code is what makes you, you, but hidden deep within it are the countless secrets of our forefathers and mothers, the history of our species including the echoes of past events. There is even small amounts of Homo Neanderthalensis and Homo Denisovan genome intertwined within our homo sapiens DNA.

Rutherford takes us on this fascinating journey up and down our collective family trees via the spirals of our DNA. No subject is beyond his gaze, hair and eye colour, to the horrors of eugenics to finding out if a body under a carpark is a deceased monarch or why it seems to be those of European descent are the only ones who can drink milk. There are some amusing parts, such as when he lists just what journalists think that scientists have found the genes for and the genetic peril of being in the Royal family. Given how complicated this subject could have been, and it did occasionally go right over my head, it is written with a refreshing clarity. The anecdotes and stories that are in here add greatly to the book. Thankfully I could understand most of it, which is the principle aim of these books to bring science to the wider audience.
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LibraryThing member Paul-the-well-read
Man's history is better told in its DNA than in its artifacts and written word, and best told in the combination of DNA evidence, collected artifacts and other data. Rutherford adds extensive DNA research findings to the already found evidence of artifacts that archaeologists have replied upon for
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so long. Yet, both DNA and archaeology require stupendous amounts of reasoning, logic, insight, deductive reasoning and supporting details from other data in order to create the most accurate picture of the earlier history of our own species.
This book offers an interesting read about our past, differing with some previous findings and beliefs, presenting some that are seen differently by other writers and adding a lot to the overall understanding of our species' development through time.
Much of science involves deductive reasoning that produces conclusions which are workable but not necessarily accurate. (The strength of science, of course, is that when its previous conclusions ARE found to be inaccurate, they are discarded). One conclusion that the Rutherford's work rests upon is that Homo Neanderthal died out as a separate and distinct species through interbreeding with Homo Sapiens to become the current species of Homo Sapiens we all are. This conclusion is speculative and differs with the one presented and developed in the book "Sapiens", a current best seller and another highly worthwhile book everyone should read.
Rutherford has pieced together a fascinating and engaging read for lay people such as myself that helps make a very complex science-the interpretation of DNA evidence-into a comprehensible contribution to everyone's understanding of our own past.
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LibraryThing member Paul-the-well-read
Man's history is better told in its DNA than in its artifacts and written word, and best told in the combination of DNA evidence, collected artifacts and other data. Rutherford adds extensive DNA research findings to the already found evidence of artifacts that archaeologists have replied upon for
Show More
so long. Yet, both DNA and archaeology require stupendous amounts of reasoning, logic, insight, deductive reasoning and supporting details from other data in order to create the most accurate picture of the earlier history of our own species.
This book offers an interesting read about our past, differing with some previous findings and beliefs, presenting some that are seen differently by other writers and adding a lot to the overall understanding of our species' development through time.
Much of science involves deductive reasoning that produces conclusions which are workable but not necessarily accurate. (The strength of science, of course, is that when its previous conclusions ARE found to be inaccurate, they are discarded). One conclusion that the Rutherford's work rests upon is that Homo Neanderthal died out as a separate and distinct species through interbreeding with Homo Sapiens to become the current species of Homo Sapiens we all are. This conclusion is speculative and differs with the one presented and developed in the book "Sapiens", a current best seller and another highly worthwhile book everyone should read.
Rutherford has pieced together a fascinating and engaging read for lay people such as myself that helps make a very complex science-the interpretation of DNA evidence-into a comprehensible contribution to everyone's understanding of our own past.
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LibraryThing member JulesGDSide
Although I had read controversial reviews of this book, I quite enjoyed it.

Ruterford tries to explain genetics and the history of the human race in layman's terms, which I greatly appreciated. Though, I am not sure all facts presented are scientifically sound (this is why I am giving this book
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only 3 stars - I'm just not sure whether all truths presented are indeed truths). I am not a geneticist but work with students in that field and hence this book will certainly be discussed in class.

This review is based on a NetGalley ARC (for the North American edition) provided by the publishers in exchange for an honest review.
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LibraryThing member LisCarey
Adam Rutherford gives us a fascinating tour of what genetics tells us about the history of our species, including the close relatives with whom we interbred, the Neanderthals and Denisovans.

New discoveries show the first H. Sapiens left Africa even earlier than we previously thought, and didn't
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always take the paths we assumed. Our DNA tells us a great deal about ourselves as a species, but not nearly as much as we like to imagine about ourselves. There just isn't that much diversity in the genome of H. Sapiens, and most of what there is, is among the peoples of Africa. The rest of us haven't been gone from Africa long enough, or separated from each other long enough, to produce that much genetic variation.

Experience and environment have far more to do with who we are as individuals than merely our genes, although some of that experience gets passed along to the next generation or two in the form of a relatively new discovery: epigenetics. Extreme or intense experiences, such as drought or famine, seem to affect how genes get activated and expressed in the next couple of generations after the one that experienced the stress.

The real secrets revealed by our genome are the secrets of our history as a species, including what we did when we met other members of genus homo who looked, and acted, "close enough." Specifically, there seems to have been an awful lot of sex, whether our ancestors met other H. Sapiens, or Neanderthals, or Denisovans (or possibly other close relatives that we're only just starting to discover.) We exchanged genes, and some of those "alien" genes are still in our genome.

In many ways, the most interesting aspect of this is what our genome tells us about the paths of human migration as H. Sapiens spread out from Africa, and Rutherford tells the story very well.

Recommended.

I bought this audiobook.
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LibraryThing member usuallee
What an utterly fascinating book. I was engrossed. If you have any interest whatsoever in the topic of genetics and/or history, Rutherford gives a great intro to it and does so authoritatively as a respected geneticist but also entertainingly, with a light and humorous touch. He covers everything
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from Cro-Magnon vs. Neanderthals, what goes into an individual's own geneology, to why inbreeding is bad. He also matter-of-factly, and credibly, debunks some theories along the way.

One of the most fascinating bits was about Charles II, prince of Spain, who suffered from a laundry list of problems both mental and physical. Reason being, he was, like, PROFOUNDLY inbred, due to generations of arranged marriages and the rigid royal rules around that. Rutherford explains that out of about 256 ancestors he should have had, he only had 87 or something (mother is also his aunt, father is also a cousin, etc). I made up the numbers but it was something like that. Yep, ya need some genetic diversity in your gene pool!

Rutherford also get points for the audiobook narration. I tend to approach author self-read audiobooks with trepidation as they are often quite bad when compared with an actual professional voice actor. But his narration was wonderful, and he is up here with Neil Degrasse Tyson in that regard. Certainly with science books like these, there is an advantage in the author narrating as they know the material. Anyway. Terrific, fascinating nonfiction book.
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LibraryThing member steve02476
Wonderful book, very readable, about human genetics, and how closely all people around the globe are related to each other. Look at everyone at the UN General Assembly and say to yourself “Every single person there is my cousin!”
LibraryThing member thenumeraltwo
Pop-sci of human genome and its place today, couched in the view from history.

This book is firmly in my wheelhouse, with it being genetics told from a grumpy British viewpoint. Read whilst in East Africa—interspersed with Lonely Planet—so felt fitting. Knowing him from the radio, read the
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whole thing in his voice. Which is happening more often these days.
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Language

Original language

English

Original publication date

2016

Physical description

7.72 inches

ISBN

1780229070 / 9781780229072
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