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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 238-239

The gene: An intimate history

Undergraduate Student, Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication11-Jan-2019

Correspondence Address:
Mahima Singh
Undergraduate Student, Bharati Vidyapeeth Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jpcs.jpcs_62_18

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How to cite this article:
Singh M. The gene: An intimate history. J Pract Cardiovasc Sci 2018;4:238-9

How to cite this URL:
Singh M. The gene: An intimate history. J Pract Cardiovasc Sci [serial online] 2018 [cited 2022 Jan 23];4:238-9. Available from: https://www.j-pcs.org/text.asp?2018/4/3/238/249943

Author : Siddhartha Mukherjee
Subject : Genetics
Language : English
Published by : Large Print Press (May 17, 2016)
Price : INR 399 (Amazon India)
Pages : 592
ISBN : 978-1432837815

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

– Charles Darwin

As captivating as the idea of Big Bang theory is, there exists a Big Bang Theory of Biology which is equally compelling, how what we know of genetics, is merely the tip of the iceberg.

Siddhartha Mukherjee in his phenomenal work, The Gene, draws a panorama in front of our intrigued minds as to how far we have come as the human race, yet what lies undiscovered ahead.

This book is a biography of the gene, intelligently intertwining not only the obvious genetic and biological but also the underlying social and human aspects of this science.

It is a tale of time, not necessarily chronological, as Mukherjee takes us back to the era of Pythagoras and Aristotle, while both put forward fairly distinct ideas, there was a striking similarity in their absent understanding of the “carrier substance.” Acknowledging Gregor Mendel, marking thefirst few fundamental ventures of genetic studies, the study that founded modern biology was with his work on breeding the pea plants and then onto Charles Darwin, having a knack for evolutionary observations, who later gave us the Origin of Species, although a theory of heredity was yet to be established.

Throughout this timeline, Heredity was the “missing science,” and an absent particle, the constitutional matter of importance that we now know as the gene.

Further studies on Mendel's work discovering the basic unit took shape and finally a Danish botanist, Wilhelm Johannsen, gave it a name “Gene.”

With the paramount discovery of gene came an enormous wave of revolution. Our world was soon bubbling with the ideas of Francis Galton's eugenics selective breeding of the strongest, smartest and fittest humans, in an aim to achieve what nature has been attempting for eons in a shorter course of time. Our understanding of the gene pool was advancing, and we could finally put together the floating puzzle pieces of linkage and crossing over, crediting this to a series of experiments by Morgan.

By the 1930s, the Nazi geneticists had been inspired by these bewildering discoveries, and we witnessed an immediate adoption of our knowledge of genes into the Hitler Regime.

The gene had now become as Mukherjee says, “one of the most dangerous ideas in history.

Relatively, newer research led us to DNA, RNA, the double helix structure in Watson and Crick models. Transformation, transcription, gene regulation, codons, and their occurrence in triplets followed not very long after.

The latest has been the Human Genome Project, which laid down before us a universe of infinite possibilities.

The book constantly leaves us in a state of flux, challenging our brains to look beyond the vast possibilities than what merely meets the eye. As we continuously learn how to transcend genes and conquer the unexplored arenas of Recombinant DNA Technology, as we strive our way into the Post-Genomic World, what comes our way in the future is hard to establish.

The gene defines who we are but at the same time is not definitive.

The Gene by Siddharth Mukherjee is quite aptly an intimate history, as it pulls in front of us a mirror, that reflects what it was, is, and what means to be human in the future to come. He concludes with an abstract drawn between variation and constancy, flux, and fidelity and between divisibility and permanence and ends by saying that this very abstract “is the most human of all things that we possess.”

Siddhartha Mukherjee is an Indian-American physician, biologist, oncologist, and author. He is best known for his 2010 book, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer that won notable literary prizes including the 2011 Pulitzer Prize.

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There are no conflicts of interest.


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