The Second Tree documents a biological revolution that will change the way you think about the material world, your own life and even the inevitability of your own death
Genetic scientists are busily pushing back the boundaries of the humanly possible, climbing the branches of a tree of life that has been grafted by man, not God. Elaine Dewar chronicles the lives, the discoveries, and the feuds among modern biologists, exploring how they have crafted the tools to alter human evolution. She travels the globe on the trail of Charles Darwin and his intellectual descendants, telling the story of James D. Watson and his partner Francis Crick, who first described DNA; of Frederick Sanger, who invented how to sequence genes and won two Nobel prizes; of the computer scientists who put the human genome on the World Wide Web. She visits companies that are trying to turn cloned sheep into pharmacies on the hoof, to resurrect prize cows from the grave, to transplant human genes into mice — ultimately attempting to give us immortality in pieces while trying to keep investors happy. As these tales spill out, we find out how biologists learn by doing: tearing mice and worms and flies and human eggs apart, twinning disparate animal cells and genes together — creating clones and chimeras as outlandish as any sphinx.
In public, research biologists often express their good intentions about curing the big diseases. In private, many of them are compelled by furious struggles to be rich, famous and first. Dewar lays bare the motives, conflicts and fears of the men and women whose job it is to trespass the boundaries of what laypeople consider ethical and sacred.
From the Hardcover edition.