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7 Daughters of Eve Book Review

May 25, 2010 | Comments: 0 | Views: 94

The 7 Daughters of Eve is a non-fiction book written by human genetics profession Brian Sykes from the University of Oxford in England. Although a non-fiction book with its core being a nice commingling of the authors life story at the time when he was working to pioneer mitochondrial DNA research and testing, there are fictional aspects to it as well.

The first half of the book is interesting in that it tells the story of how the type of mitochondrial DNA testing came about and the stories from the authors personal life that helped move the research along. As an example, after a motor cycle accident left Sykes with a bad shoulder that needed to set before flying, he was able to take samples from a small island population in the Pacific Rim which was useful in showing how often (well, actually how not often) mitochondrial DNA mutates. It is these real stories that allow the average reader to enjoy the book without being overpowered by the science, which when summed up says that a mother passes mitochondrial DNA in its entirety on to all of her children.

Given that mitochondrial DNA is passed exactly from a mother to her children, it is possible to go back through history and find what Sykes called the 7 daughters of eve. These were 7 women who lead humans out of Africa and helped to populate the rest of the world according to the book.

Sykes attempts to give each of these women a name and tell the story of their life based on what we know about the area that they likely lived as well as archaeological evidence from the time period suggested by the number of mutations in the DNA sequence. While this part of the book was interesting, we see farming start in one story, dogs being domesticated in another, I found it more difficult to connect with then the actual story from Sykes life and the science which surrounded it.

It's a very interesting and quicker read then you might expect because Sykes is able to make the science sound both reasonable and accurate while explaining his own story. Each reader will likely favor a different part of the book, but it generally does not read anything like the long, boring and frustrating genetic textbooks that so many of us have been presented with in Biology class. I would say this is a definite read for anyone interested in Human Genetics.

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