Steve's Reviews > The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry

The Seven Daughters of Eve by Bryan Sykes
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's review
Nov 14, 10

bookshelves: popular-science, nonfiction
Read in November, 2010

Bryan Sykes has become famous for his DNA analyses of Otzi the Iceman and the Cheddar Man. In this book, Syke's prose is *excellent*. As a measure of my esteem for his writing style, I read this entire book in five hours with a short lunch break. Like other reviewers, I found the first sections of the book most impressive, where he is outlining the differences in nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, discussing DNA collection techniques, and the significance of DNA data. I felt like I could go from this book to other, perhaps contending, works, with a much greater sense of what DNA analysis is and what it means. I also found the last third to be somewhat disappointing. In the last third of the book, Sykes presents a series of historical fiction vignettes of the eponymous 'seven daughters of Eve'. I understand what Sykes was trying to do, and I do appreciate how the book is far from dry in any section, but I find it difficult to reconcile non-fiction, albeit 'popular' science writing with historical fiction in the same text. If Sykes had decided to write a companion book where he placed this historical fiction, I believe it would have gone over better with me.
That being said, this is an example of excellent 'popular' science writing. All too often, academics get too supercilious about explaining science 'to the masses'. However, if they fail to accomplish this task, then the result will increasingly be an ignorant public unable to judge between real science and spurious science. Scientists - of any stripe - CANNOT ignore the public, because ultimately the public is more powerful than any scientific body in existence. IF more scientists took it upon themselves to educate 'the masses' the result would be less of the junk science we see floating around today. As an academic and a social scientist by training and profession, I believe this wholly and sincerely. Kudos to Sykes for setting the bar for science writing higher.
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