A guinea pig's history of biology : the plants and animals who taught us the facts of life /
Jim Endersby.
London : William Heinemann, 2007.
xii, 499 p. ; 25 cm.
0434012599 (cased), 9780434012596 (cased)
More Details
London : William Heinemann, 2007.
0434012599 (cased)
9780434012596 (cased)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
Flap Copy
What would the history of biology have been be without Darwin's finches or Mendel's peas? Without the fruit fly or the laboratory mouse?Jim Endersby's strikingly original book tells the story of modern biology through the stories of the animals and plants that made it possible, showing how the guinea pig and the passionflower, the zebra fish and the fruit fly have played a pivotal role in the unfolding of the theory of evolution and the gradual understanding of what genes are and how they work.Through breeding these animals and plants, observing the consequences and extrapolating - sometimes quite wildly - from these observations, scientists from Darwin onwards have gradually come to understand how inheritance shapes generations to come. In telling their stories, Endersby fascinatingly reveals the development of perhaps the most significant science of our times. From the story of Lord Morton's mare, offspring of a quagga (a bit like a zebra - stripes and a filthy temper) and an Arab stallion, whose foals - unlike either of their parents - had striped manes; to that of the zebra fish, whose bodies are transparent until they are mature, allowing scientists to observe exactly how a single fertilized cell can multiply into the millions of specialised cells that make up a new fish. Each story has - piece by piece - revealed how DNA determines the characteristics of the adult organismEntertaining, surprising and enlightening by turns, this unusual and original view of the science of life also challenges us to consider the ethical dilemmas that biology presents today - when we have the capacity as never before to change the very nature of living things.
Back Cover Copy
Passion flowers taught Darwin about the vigour of hybrids and how plants moved, but insignificant yellow flowers called hawkweeds confused Gregor Mendel as he struggled to discover why some hybrids were stable while others always reverted to their parental types. Francis Galton discovered that people make rather bad experimental organisms (irritatingly, many have minds of their own), and Hugo de Vries was first exhilarated then mystified by evening primroses. Fruit flies turned out to be more helpful, not only in showing Thomas Morgan how chromosomes carry hereditary information but also in forging cooperation between American and Soviet biologists. The humble guinea pig was the main animal that Sewall Wright and others used to uncover how the genetics of populations works. And when the guinea pig's insights were combined with those the fruit flies had provided, biologists finally worked out how evolutionary pressure changes one species into another.
Bowker Data Service Summary
By spending years laboriously breeding animals and plants, observing the consequences and extrapolating from these observations, scientists have come to understand how genetic inheritance shapes generations to come. In telling their stories, Endersby reveals the development of perhaps the most significant science of our times.
Main Description
Much of the history of biology has been a matter of working with animals and plants. From Mendel's grasses to Barbara McClintock's maize, as well as a menagerie of animals, Jim Endersby tells their story.

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