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The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity


Subjects: | MESH: Heredity—genetics

The whole subject of inheritance is wonderful.
—Charles Darwin

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh- The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
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Book Details
 608 p
 File Size 
 5,422 KB
 File Type
 PDF format
 9781101984604 (ebook)
 2018 by Carl Zimmer

About the Author
CARL ZIMMER writes the Matter column for the New York Times and
has contributed to The Atlantic, National Geographic, Time, and
Scientific American. He has won the Stephen Jay Gould Prize, among
many other honors, for his journalism. Zimmer teaches science writing
at Yale University. His previous books include Parasite Rex, Evolution:
The Triumph of an Idea, and Microcosm.

“No one unravels the mysteries of science as brilliantly and compellingly as Carl
Zimmer, and he has proven it again with She Has Her Mother’s Laugh—a
sweeping, magisterial book that illuminates the very nature of who we are.”
—David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon and The Lost City of Z
“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 the Pulitzer Prize–winning 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, Stanford University, author of Behave
“She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is a masterpiece—a career-best work from one of
the world’s premier science writers, on a topic that literally touches every person
on the planet.”
—Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
“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 impacts 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, University of Chicago, author of Your Inner Fish
“Zimmer is a born storyteller. Or is he an inherited storyteller? The inspiring and
heartbreaking stories in She Has Her Mother’s Laugh build a fundamentally new
perspective on what previous generations have delivered to us and what we can
pass along. An outstanding book and a great accomplishment.”
—Daniel Levitin, author of This Is Your Brain on Music and The Organized Mind
“One of the most gifted science journalists of his generation, Carl Zimmer tells a
gripping human story about heredity from misguided notions that have caused
terrible harm to recent ongoing research that promises to unleash more powerful
technologies than the world has ever known. The breadth of his perspective is
extraordinarily compelling, compassionate, and valuable. Please read this book now.”
—Jennifer Doudna, UC Berkeley, coauthor of A Crack in Creation
“Carl Zimmer lifts off the lid, dumps out the contents, and sorts through the
pieces of one of history’s most problematic ideas: heredity. Deftly touching on
psychology, genetics, race, and politics, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is a superb
guide to a subject that is only becoming more important. Along the way, it
explains some remarkably complicated science with equally remarkable clarity
—a totally impressive job all around.”
—Charles C. Mann, author of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
“Carl Zimmer is not only among my favorite science writers—he’s also now
responsible for making me wonder why there is more Neanderthal DNA on earth
right now than when Neanderthals were here, and why humanity is getting taller
and smarter in the past few generations. She Has Her Mother’s Laugh explains
how our emerging understanding of genetics is touching almost every part of
society and will increasingly touch our lives.”
—Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better and The Power of Habit
“With this book, Carl Zimmer rises from being our best biological science writer
to being one of our very best nonfiction writers in any field, period.”
—Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology, UC Berkeley
“How every characteristic—from genes to personality—is passed down from
one generation to the next is one of the most fundamental, complex,
misunderstood, and misused enigmas of biology. In this beautifully written,
heartfelt, and enjoyable masterpiece, Zimmer weaves together history,
autobiography, and science to elucidate the mysteries of heredity and why we
should care. I couldn’t put this book down and can’t recommend it too highly.”
—Daniel E. Lieberman, Harvard University, author of The Story of the Human Body
“She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is at once enlightening and utterly compelling.
Carl Zimmer weaves spellbinding narrative with luminous science writing to
give us the story of heredity, the story of us all. Anyone interested in where we
came from and where we are going—which is to say, everyone—will want to read it.”
—Jennifer Ackerman, author of The Genius of Birds and Chance in the House of Fate
“Traversing time and societies, the personal and the political, the moral and the
scientific, She Has Her Mother’s Laugh takes readers on an endlessly
mesmerizing journey of what it means to be human. Carl Zimmer has created a
brilliant canvas of life that is at times hopeful, at times horrifying, and always
beautifully rendered. I could hope for no better guide into the complexities,
perils, and, ultimately, potential of what the science of heredity has in store for the world.”
—Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game
“With his latest work, Zimmer has assured his place as one of the greatest
science writers of our time. She Has Her Mother’s Laugh is an extraordinary
exploration of a topic that is at once familiar and foreign, and touches every one
of us. With the eloquence of a poet and the expertise of a scientist, Zimmer has
created a nonfiction thriller that will change the way you think about your
family, those you love, and the past and future.”
—Brian Hare, Duke University, coauthor of The Genius of Dogs

Table of Contents
A Stroke on the Cheek
1. The Light Trifle of His Substance
2. Traveling Across the Face of Time
3. This Race Should End with Them
4. Attagirl
Wayward DNA
5. An Evening’s Revelry
6. The Sleeping Branches
7. Individual Z
8. Mongrels
9. Nine Foot High Complete
10. Ed and Fred
The Pedigree Within
11. Ex Ovo Omnia
12. Witches’-Broom
13. Chimeras
Other Channels
14. You, My Friend, Are a Wonderland
15. Flowering Monsters
16. The Teachable Ape
The Sun Chariot
17. Yet Did He Greatly Dare
18. Orphaned at Conception
19. The Planet’s Heirs

She Has Her Mother’s Laugh- The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity
An imprint of Penguin Random House LLC
375 Hudson Street
New York, New York 10014

DUTTON and the D colophon are trademarks of Penguin Random House LLC.

Classification: LCC QH431 | NLM QU 500 | DDC 576.5—dc23
LC record available at

While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and other
contact information at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any
responsibility for errors or for changes that occur after publication. Further, the publisher does not have any
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