A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

Book - 2017
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Workman Press.
National Book Critics Circle Award—2017 Nonfiction Finalist

Nothing less than a tour de force—a heady amalgam of science, history, a little bit of anthropology and plenty of nuanced, captivating storytelling.”—The New York Times Book Review, Editor's Choice

A National Geographic Best Book of 2017

In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex.

But those stories have always been locked away—until now.

Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived will upend your thinking on Neanderthals, evolution, royalty, race, and even redheads. (For example, we now know that at least four human species once roamed the earth.) Plus, here is the remarkable, controversial story of how our genes made their way to the Americas—one that’s still being written, as ever more of us have our DNA sequenced.

Rutherford closes with “A Short Introduction to the Future of Humankind,” filled with provocative questions that we’re on the cusp of answering: Are we still in the grasp of natural selection? Are we evolving for better or worse? And . . . where do we go from here?

This is a story about you. It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is to each of the 100 billion modern humans who have ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in every one of our genomes we each carry the history of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex.

Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001, it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims, and myths. In fact, as Adam Rutherford explains, our genomes should be read not as instruction manuals, but as epic poems. DNA determines far less than we have been led to believe about us as individuals, but vastly more about us as a species.

In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about history, and what history tells us about our genes. From Neanderthals to murder, from redheads to race, dead kings to plague, evolution to epigenetics, this is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.

Baker & Taylor
An exploration of the human genome discusses what genes can tell about history and what history can reveal about humans as a species.

& Taylor

A science writer and broadcaster with a background in genetics reveals what our genes can tell us about history and how unraveling the human genome has shattered deeply held beliefs about our heritage and identities.

Publisher: New York :, The Experiment,, 2017
Copyright Date: ℗♭2017
ISBN: 9781615194049
Characteristics: xiv, 401 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Mukherjee, Siddhartha


From the critics

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Mar 30, 2018

Nothing new here. Title is way overblown, as so is the author. You learn much more about author than "everyone who ever lived". He does make it clear that "everyone" is beneath him, however. Heaven help you if you are not royalty and actually have to work for a living.

Feb 07, 2018

I really liked this book, because it taught me some surprising and amazing things that we've learned via genomics about our human history. A few tidbits:
* Those of us of European descent are all related to the small percentage of human sapiens that left Africa.
* Those of us of European descent can chart a path back to an ancestor who was living in Europe around 900 AD. Four out of five people alive then gave birth, and those are the stock which has given rise to all of us of European descent. (At least, that's how I understood this point.)
* There was a lot of breeding across the branches of our family "tree," and so the tree is more of a map. As a consequence, we carry a lot of Neanderthal DNA in our genome.
* There are no true genetic markers for race. Because of our ancestry, for example, people who are descended from those who left Africa are more similar genetically than those who stayed. This means that a white and black person descended from those who left Africa early are likely more genetically similar to two African's from different parts of Africa.

Anyway, I'm sure I mangled some of those ideas, but I had several "oh man, that's an incredible idea!" kind of moments.

The author's language is also striking. He conveys his love of science with a poetic bent, but also describes the difficulties inherent in the scientific process to alleviate junk science and its misuse.


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