She Has Her Mother's Laugh:
The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
This event includes a book signing
May 30, 2018
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes award-winning science writer CARL ZIMMER for a discussion of his latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity.
About She Has Her Mother's Laugh
She Has Her Mother's Laugh presents a profoundly original perspective on what we pass along from generation to generation. Charles Darwin played a crucial part in turning heredity into a scientific question, and yet he failed spectacularly to answer it. The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to do precisely that. Gradually, people translated their old notions about heredity into a language of genes. As the technology for studying genes became cheaper, millions of people ordered genetic tests to link themselves to missing parents, to distant ancestors, to ethnic identities, etc.
But, Zimmer writes, "Each of us carries an amalgam of fragments of DNA, stitched together from some of our many ancestors. Each piece has its own ancestry, traveling a different path back through human history. A particular fragment may sometimes be cause for worry, but most of our DNA influences who we are—our appearance, our height, our penchants—in inconceivably subtle ways." Heredity isn't just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors—using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates—but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. We need a new definition of what heredity is and, through Carl Zimmer's lucid exposition and storytelling, this resounding tour de force delivers it.
Weaving historical and current scientific research, his own experience with his two daughters, and the kind of original reporting expected of one of the world's best science journalists, Zimmer ultimately unpacks urgent bioethical quandaries arising from new biomedical technologies, but also long-standing presumptions about who we really are and what we can pass on to future generations.
“She Has Her Mother's Laugh is at once far-ranging, imaginative, and totally relevant. Carl Zimmer makes the complex science of heredity read like a novel, and explains why the subject has been—and always will be—so vexed.” —Elizabeth Kolbert, author of Pulitzer Prize winner The Sixth Extinction
“Humans have long noticed something remarkable, namely that organisms are similar but not identical to their parents—in other words, that some traits can be inherited. From this observation has grown the elegant science of genetics, with its dazzling medical breakthroughs. And from this has also grown the toxic pseudosciences of eugenics, Lysenkoism, and Nazi racial ideology. Carl Zimmer traces the intertwined histories of the science and pseudoscience of heredity. Zimmer writes like a dream, teaches a ton of accessible science, and provides the often intensely moving stories of the people whose lives have been saved or destroyed by this topic. I loved this book.” —Robert Sapolsky, Professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University
"Nobody writes about science better than Carl Zimmer. As entertaining as he is informative, he has a way of turning the discoveries of science into deeply moving human stories. This book is a timely account of the uses and misuses of some of the science that directly impact our lives today. It is also a career moment by one of our most important and graceful writers. Here is a book to be savored." —Neil Shubin, bestselling author of Your Inner Fish
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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