The Gene Book Cover

The Gene

An Intimate History
Publishing Year: 2016
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The Gene: An Intimate History is a book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an American physician and oncologist, which talks about the history of the gene and genetic research. The book comprises many facts and figures, and also discusses how genetics can impact a person's behavior and well-being. In this book, Siddhartha Mukherjee also talks about his family's genetic history, and opens up about his battles with mental illness. He also conveys the message that genes and genetic tendencies should not stop a person from achieving everything he desires for.

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Lesson 1. The discovery and evolution of genes.

Early research into the gene began in 1864, when an Australian botanist Gregor Johann Mendel performed an experiment on plants. Mendel noticed some astonishing results. While breeding those plants, some specific traits of the parent plant were always passed on to the next generation of plants. The other traits however were unique and different from those of the parent.

A tall plant, for instance, when crossed with a dwarf plant, would produce only tall offsprings, which might indicate a blending of parental traits. In plants, tallness is a dominant trait, which means it overrides the trait of dwarfism. In other words, what Mendel discovered is that hereditary knowledge, such as the characteristic of tallness, is passed down in indivisible units from generation to generation. Mendel had revealed the tiniest building block of heredity, the gene, in defining these indivisible units.

Some years later, Mendel's earlier work was revived by the Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries, and he was able to combine his theories on genetics with the theory of evolution by Charles Darwin, published when Mendel was still in school. 

Darwin suggested that all animal species had descended from earlier types of animals through a mechanism of gradual, continuous transition, rather than being a direct gift from God. The inherited work of Mendel perfectly complemented Darwin's theory. If, as Darwin proposed, a species evolved, it would make sense for an animal to transfer physical characteristics through genes.

 

Lesson 2. Traits and Genes are connected.

An essential question about heredity in a species was answered by the discovery of the gene. But due to this, new questions too have emerged. Researchers recognized that genes existed, but did not understand what a gene looked like or how it operated at a biological level.

Scientists have now identified the building blocks of genes with the discovery of DNA. The traits Mendel had observed so long ago literally exist on the many DNA strands of an organism. Interestingly, to transmit a trait in an organism, genes function together. Observable features, such as height, are not the product of a single gene, but rather of several genes working together.

You can think of gene expression as the interaction of pixels on the screen of your smartphone. Although each pixel is separate, they form a complete image together. Similarly, genes function independently, but when they combine, a complete picture of an observable feature in an organism is created. However, gene expression should not automatically be related to observable characteristics, such as the size and shape of the

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About the author

Siddhartha Mukherjee Image

Siddhartha Mukherjee, an esteemed oncologist and writer, gained acclaim for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Emperor of All Maladies.” Renowned for his ability to blend scientific insights with captivating storytelling, Mukherjee explores th...

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Chapter List
  • Lesson 1. The discovery and evolution of genes.
  • Lesson 2. Traits and Genes are connected.
  • Lesson 3. People were manipulated through “Eugenics”.
  • Lesson 4. The nucleus shares DNA information with the rest of the body.
  • Lesson 5. Genes are essential for protein production, and proper cell functioning.
  • Lesson 6. DNA controls every cell in the body.
  • Lesson 7. DNA Sequencing can partially help doctors to identify and diagnose some genetic disorders and diseases.
  • Lesson 8. The Genome Project has explained quite a lot.
  • Lesson 9. We are all born with certain genetic tendencies.
  • Lesson 10. The scope of genetic manipulation seems endless.
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FAQs

In the summary of The Gene book, there are 10 key lessons. These lessons include:

  1. Lesson 1. The discovery and evolution of genes.
  2. Lesson 2. Traits and Genes are connected.
  3. Lesson 3. People were manipulated through “Eugenics”.
  4. Lesson 4. The nucleus shares DNA information with the rest of the body.
  5. Lesson 5. Genes are essential for protein production, and proper cell functioning.
  6. Lesson 6. DNA controls every cell in the body.
  7. Lesson 7. DNA Sequencing can partially help doctors to identify and diagnose some genetic disorders and diseases.
  8. Lesson 8. The Genome Project has explained quite a lot.
  9. Lesson 9. We are all born with certain genetic tendencies.
  10. Lesson 10. The scope of genetic manipulation seems endless.

The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee was published in 2016.

Once you've completed The Gene book, We suggest reading out Understanding the Space Economy as a great follow-up read.

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