The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry
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The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  3,037 ratings  ·  342 reviews
One of the most dramatic stories of genetic discovery since James Watson's The Double Helix—a work whose scientific and cultural reverberations will be discussed for years to come.
In 1994 Professor Bryan Sykes, a leading world authority on DNA and human evolution, was called in to examine the frozen remains of a man trapped in glacial ice in northern Italy. News of both th...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 2001)
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Too much of this book is fiction, and what isn't fiction is sometimes plain wrong.
On p26 he claims that Watson & Crick used X-rays to calculate the positions of atoms within DNA.

This is totally untrue.

Watson & Crick did NO experimental work on DNA,
an English woman did the X-ray work and watson & crick "borrowed" her work.
And borrowed much more from others.

He also claims there was a "general lack of interest in by most of their contemporaries"

Again, FALSE, in the 1930's an amer...more

The first half of this book gives an excellent and detailed description of Bryan Sykes’ thrilling investigative journey whereby he uncovers findings and develops his theory regarding mitochondrial DNA, DNA that is passed down from mother to child that, according to Sykes, can give us a record back through our mothers due to measurable degrees of mutation.

While reading this book, keep in mind that, according to the author himself, the fictitious representations of the "Seven Daughters of Eve" are...more
This book was surprisingly moving. The largest portion of the book is dedicated to presenting genetic science in a language that a simple laywoman such as myself can understand. I am still blown away that human beings have figured so much of this stuff out. But then Sykes goes on to imagine the lives of the seven women from whom most (>95%) of modern Europe’s inhabitants are descended. The surprisingly moving part of the book came as Sykes discusses the change of humans from a nomadic hunter-...more
I picked up this book because I was interested in learning more about mitochondrial DNA and its inheritance patterns. In the first part of the book Sykes, a primary researcher in this field, does a solid job about explaining mitochondrial DNA and the history and process of how he used it in his research, tracing the questions he was asking and the methods that he and his team used. In the second part of the book, he “names” several ancestral women, all identified by their individual DNA sequence...more
One of the earlier books that started the genetic genealogy revolution. Most of the book is an insider's look at the process of making scientific discoveries, getting funding, publishing, and dealing with critics. A process that, in this case, quite happily ended up at full acceptance. Mitochondrial DNA illuminates the maternal line and gives us strong evidence both for relatedness of different populations and human migration over tens of thousands of years.

The seven daughters of Eve are not sis...more
I have been reading Saxons, Vikings, and Celts by the same author but have put it aside so that I can finish this book!!!
I am a Sociologist by training with an emphasis on Anthropology so this is of real interest to me.
Sykes writes for the average person but is of great interest to the professional.
As some of the reviewers noted, the last half of the book is what the author imagines the lives of these "clan mothers" must have been like. Personally, it helps the non-scientific reader understand...more
Mrs. Adcock
Aug 29, 2011 Mrs. Adcock is currently reading it
I haven't gotten very far, but I'm extremely curious about this book. The author's theory is that our genetic makeup can be traced back to just seven women; all described in the book. Can't wait to find out more!
Very interesting book on genetics. Sounds boring, but has some really interesting stories.
Big fat meh. I didn't find it particularly well-written or engrossing and I really didn't enjoy the fictional bits. I know Sykes was trying to make the 7 daughters of Eve more real, easier to relate to, but I found it trite and a little nauseating. I've read other books on genetics and found them much more interesting and informative, for some reason this one just slid off my face. The only thing I found truly interesting was the mention of race at the end (literally 5 pages before the end!) and...more
Interesting and thought-provoking read, but there were a few things that I found distracting. Early on, Sykes mentions some tension between himself and one of his co-workers. Later, he addresses events around this same person, who is involved in research and a paper that has devastating potential toward the research on mitochondrial DNA. Sykes' description of the events and final outcome come off as a "nyah nyah" thumbing of his nose at this person and ended up making me feel less sympathetic to...more
The first three quarters of this book were packed full of genetics, human biology, anthropology, and even a little archeology and geography. If you ask me (and I guess you are), that is way too much scientific -ology. Unless you really like that stuff. I've heard there are people that do.
Anyway, I liked the book because I appreciated the authors humor and I found the whole idea of tracing our genealogy back so far extremely interesting. I especially liked his analogy of all of his ancestors hold...more
This is the book that started a love affair with DNA! I've now read several books on tracing human orgins through DNA, but this was the first one and it's the one that really got me to thinking about who these women really were. I really had to stretch my mind back and realize that one of the seven daughters is my ancestor! It rekindled my desire to do genealogical/family history research, especially on my mother's side back through all the women. It's difficult, because women's identities becom...more
Jayesh Shah
This is a very interesting book. It is very well written. Bryan Sykes explains the science involved in his story in a very interesting fashion.

It is fascinating and mind-boggling to imagine that as few as seven women could be ancestors of a whole continent of Europe. The author makes it clear in his book, that these seven women were not the only women of their times. Also, he explains that they were ancestors by maternal lineages only. There must be many other women who are ancestors of millions...more
Interesting science, which I don't totally understand but it goes something like this. Since we all have 50% DNA from father, 50% from mother, there's no way to trace back via DNA to see if somebody today is related to, say, DNA from a body found frozen in the ice of Italy from 20,000 years ago, since every generation back, our DNA would get more and more mixed and jumbled. BUT, there's a certain piece of DNA called Mitochondrial DNA that is passed on from the mother and never changes. Apparentl...more
Egzon Hasanaj
The book "The Seven Daughters Of Eve:The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry" by the author, Bryan Sykes is one of the best books, in my opinion ever published. This book, is so interesting it really makes my mind ponder and really think about, where are our origins? Where do we all come from? And, why are we the creatures that we are today? What makes us so unique from the rest? Reading this book i asked these questions and many more. This book was interesting because of its imagination l...more
Although this book was written in 2001, it is still a useful introduction to the study of human genetic ancestry for the layperson like me. Sykes is unique for having been at the forefront of major discoveries in genetics, such as sequencing the Iceman (Otzi)'s genome and finding modern descendants, helping to identify the bodies of most of the members of the massacred Russian royal family, and tracing 95% of Europeans' female ancestors to just seven women who lived between 45,000 and 10,000 yea...more
Were Polynesian islands peopled by Asians or American Indians? Are the skeletons found at Iekaterinburg the ones of the Romanov family? Is Neanderthal really extincted or, does he have any descendants? What about the Europeans? Do they have Croc-Magnon for ancestor or, farmers coming from the Middle-East? Bryan Sykes tells us the discoveries made by genetics thanks to mitochondrial DNA, a bacteria passing from generation to generation through the maternal line only.

Enthusiast, he is like a kid i...more
Jul 02, 2008 Radhika rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: those curious about our past and our present
Sykes traces the history of most Europeans back to 7 women through an examination of mitochondrial DNA. I love the science behind this book. An examination of the DNA shows how very related most people are. Would love to see this done for places like India where caste differences make people treat each other badly. Wouldn't it also be cool to take it even further and relate the Europeans back to say the Africans and show how related blacks and whites might be. Sykes shows how he may be related t...more
I heard about this book in a geography class I took a few years ago, and I thought it did a good job explaining how matrilineal lineages can be traced using mitochondrial DNA. I do agree with several of the other reviews which state that there was a little too much of the book spent on European decent and the fictional narratives of the Seven Daughters, but other than that it was a great book. As much as I wanted to get back to the science of the genetic testing described in the first half of th...more
After enjoying DNA USA so much, this was disappointing. I loved the stories, research hurdles, and data of the first portion, but the rest went down in a mudslide. The amount of speculation was enormous especially in origin of Polynesians, movement of neo-paleolithic peoples, and dating of the clusters. What made it worse is that he later referred to these conclusions like 'clearly,' 'as we now know,' 'without a doubt,' without furthur support, data, research, or reasoning. These footings were s...more
William Ramsay
This is a very interesting book that does damage to any lingering ideas of racial superiority. By genetic testing of thousands of people, Sykes has show that everyone of European extraction can trace his or her ancestry to just seven women who lived between 10 and 45 thousand years ago. Not only that, but DNA testing and archeology have shown that we are all Africans at the core. All I could think of while reading this is that so much blood has been spilled because one man thinks he's superior t...more
This book really was amazing. It answered questions I had from other books (which continent did the Polynesians come from. When did the native Australians arrive). It answered questions I didn't even know enough about the subject to have before (What is the difference between a Paleolithic modern human and a Neanderthal). I learned a lot about genetics and how they can answer those questions. Plus, he's a great storyteller. It was fascinating to read the narratives he wrote about the lives of th...more
Feb 17, 2014 Doreen rated it 4 of 5 stars Recommends it for: Diane, Matt
Recommended to Doreen by: Prescott
I appreciate the author's explanations of DNA sequencing, mitochondrial DNA's properties, etc. As a non-scientific person who is curious and impressed by scientific research, this book kept me interested through every page. The author has a gift in presenting complex procedures and data in a way that is easily understood by the layperson.

So, we are all descended from seven specific women. Each mother has a specific DNA sequence. And every person who lives, has ever lived, and WILL EVER LIVE, i...more
Matthewmartinmurray murray
Really cool. Wasn't sure what to expect but I ended up really enjoying reading the back story of how they got to the thesis of the seven daughters. I even liked the speculation on the lifes of the seven women that the book is about. I found it informative and entertaining. Just what I usually look for.
For all the geeky geneticists out there, a fascinating look into our history through our mitochondrial chromosomes. Sykes uses modern molecular technology to bring the history of the human race to life in a surprisingly vibrant tale of theory and discovery.
My book club read this one, but I didn't finish it. The first half was fascinating, but then the author tried too hard, by creating fictional personalities for each of the seven daughters. Still, worth it for the first half.
Fascinating, the kind of book that would make me interested in the science if I hadn't already been. The author is one of the leading figures in tracing early human history and migrations from Africa through the Near East, Europe, and western Asia, using DNA obtained from bones or any other remains still extant.

Dr. Sykes takes what could have been a very dry exposition and makes it lively and humanizing, both of the ancient people he describes and of the modern volunteers who contributed their...more
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Jul 31, 2012 Meherin rated it 2 of 5 stars Recommends it for: those interested in genetics and mt genetics
Shelves: science, non-fiction
I read this book in high school because I was interested in mitochondrial genetics. The book itself was rather dry and boring in my opinion, though the concept of tracing lineages through mtDNA was really interesting. The summary on the back cover said "all humans are descended from seven prehistoric women." I thought it would be fun to learn about which daughter of Mitochondrial Eve I was descended from but I didn't realize this book is about the 7 maternal ancestors of modern EUROPEAN Humans (...more
Strengths: Mr. Sykes is very good at explaining this DNA craziness to the unwashed masses (i.e., moi). This seems to be the purpose of the book, and it is accomplished with grace and ease, for the most part. There is a bit of a thrill to the narrative of these discoveries, and the implications are indeed awe-inspiring. ("We are fam-il-y. I got all my sistahs with me!") The idea that we have so much information coded in our genes is thought-provoking and that we are beginning to actually decipher...more
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“Our DNA does not fade like an ancient parchment; it does not rust in the ground like the sword of a warrior long dead. It is not eroded by wind or rain, nor reduced to ruin by fire and earthquake. It is the traveller from an ancient land who lives within us all.” 3 likes
“As this book will show, objectively defined races simply do not exist. Even Arthur Mourant realized that fact nearly fifty years ago, when he wrote: 'Rather does a study of blood groups show a heterogeneity in the proudest nation and support the view that the races of the present day are but temporary integrations in the constant process of . . . mixing that marks the history of every living species.' The temptation to classify the human species into categories which have no objective basis is an inevitable but regrettable consequence of the gene frequency system when it is taken too far. For several years the study of human genetics got firmly bogged down in the intellectually pointless (and morally dangerous) morass of constructing ever more detailed classifications of human population groups.” 2 likes
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