BOOKS: A MORAVIAN MONK AND YOU - The voice of an 18th-century horticulturalist echoes in science and industry today. Chris Evans reviews a challenging volume on genetics - In Mendel's Footnotes, by Colin Tudge - Jonathan Cape, pounds 25

BOOKS: A MORAVIAN MONK AND YOU - The voice of an 18th-century horticulturalist echoes in science and industry today. Chris Evans reviews a challenging volume on genetics - In Mendel's Footnotes, by Colin Tudge - Jonathan Cape, pounds 25 - Colin Tudge's In

by DR CHRIS EVANS OBE, chairman of Merlin Biosciences and a leadingbiotechnology entrepreneur

Colin Tudge's In Mendel's Footnotes offers a readable combination of scientific fact and history alongside reflections on the impact of genetics on evolutionary theory, present society and future trends. It sets out with two main objectives: to provide an overview of the emergence of genetics to its position today and to demonstrate the genius of Gregor Mendel in establishing the basis of both classical and modern genetics.

The historical accounts are fascinating and easy to read; the philosophy and reflections challenge the reader's own thinking. But how well do the hard facts of genetics fit into a book that is otherwise a relaxing read?

The importance of genetics is presented in Tudge's opening words: 'Heredity matters. It is perhaps the central obsession of humankind and indeed of all creatures.' Recognising genetics as a tool by which we may better understand ourselves gets us in the mood to think responsibly about a range of big issues - crop breeding, cloning, designer babies and so on.

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