Spencer Wells The Journey of Man

ISBN 13: 9780141008325

The Journey of Man

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9780141008325: The Journey of Man

Around 60,000 years ago, a man, identical to us in all important respects, walked the soil of Africa. Every man alive today is descended from him. How did he come to be father to all of us - a real-life Adam? And why do we come in such a huge variety of sizes, shapes, types and races if we all share a single prehistoric ancestor? In this fascinating book, Spencer Wells shows how the truth about our ancestors is hidden in our genetic code, and reveals how developments in the cutting-edge science of population genetics have made it possible not just to discover where our ancestors lived (and who they may have fought, loved, learned from and influence) but to create a family tree for the whole of humanity.

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Review:

Spencer Wells traces human evolution back to our very first ancestor in The Journey of Man. Along the way, he sums up the explosive effect of new techniques in genetics on the field of evolutionary biology and all available evidence from the fossil record. Wells's seemingly sexist title is purposeful: he argues that the Y chromosome gives us a unique opportunity to follow our migratory heritage back to a sort of Adam, just as earlier work in mitochondrial DNA allowed the identification of Eve, mother of all Homo sapiens. While his descriptions of the advances made by such luminary scientists as Richard Lewontin and Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza can be dry, Wells comes through with sparkling metaphors when it counts, as when he compares genetic drift to a bouillabaisse recipe handed down through a village's generations. Though finding our primal male is an exciting prospect, the real revolution Wells describes is racial. Or rather, nonracial, as he reiterates the scientific truth that our notions of what makes us different from each other are purely cultural, not based in biology. The case for an "out of Africa" scenario of human migration is solid in this book, though Wells makes it clear when he is hypothesizing anything controversial. Readers interested in a fairly technical, but not overwhelming, summary of the remarkable conclusions of 21st-century human evolutionary biology will find The Journey of Man a perfect primer. --Therese Littleton

From the Back Cover:

"Written with much verve, easy to read, and up-to-date on many important developments."--Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Stanford University, author of The History and Geography of Human Genes and Genes, Peoples, and Languages.

"Spencer Wells, whose genetic work has contributed to our understanding of human prehistory, has provided the lay reader with an account of the spread and mixing of the human species from its origin in Africa that is both scientifically accurate and accessible to the nonscientist. In achieving that accessibility, he has not made the common error of confusing simple explanations with simplistic ones. Most important, Wells has the intellectual integrity, all too rare in popularizations of science, to distinguish what is really known from what is only speculation."--Richard Lewontin, Harvard University, author of It Ain't Necessarily So: The Dream of the Human Genome and Other Illusions.

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Wells, Spencer (Author)
Published by Penguin (2003)
ISBN 10: 0141008326 ISBN 13: 9780141008325
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Wells, Spencer
Published by Penguin Books, Limited (UK) (2003)
ISBN 10: 0141008326 ISBN 13: 9780141008325
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