Neanderthal Man: Book summary and reviews of Neanderthal Man by Svante Pääbo

Neanderthal Man

In Search of Lost Genomes

by Svante Pääbo

Neanderthal Man by Svante Pääbo X
Neanderthal Man by Svante Pääbo
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Book Summary

What can we learn from the genomes of our closest evolutionary relatives?

Neanderthal Man tells the story of geneticist Svante Pääbo's mission to answer this question, and recounts his ultimately successful efforts to genetically define what makes us different from our Neanderthal cousins. Beginning with the study of DNA in Egyptian mummies in the early 1980s and culminating in the sequencing of the Neanderthal genome in 2010, Neanderthal Man describes the events, intrigues, failures, and triumphs of these scientifically rich years through the lens of the pioneer and inventor of the field of ancient DNA.

We learn that Neanderthal genes offer a unique window into the lives of our hominin relatives and may hold the key to unlocking the mystery of why humans survived while Neanderthals went extinct. Drawing on genetic and fossil clues, Pääbo explores what is known about the origin of modern humans and their relationship to the Neanderthals and describes the fierce debate surrounding the nature of the two species' interactions. His findings have not only redrawn our family tree, but recast the fundamentals of human history - the biological beginnings of fully modern Homo sapiens, the direct ancestors of all people alive today.

A riveting story about a visionary researcher and the nature of scientific inquiry, Neanderthal Man offers rich insight into the fundamental question of who we are.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. In accessible prose, Pääbo presents the science so that laypersons will understand the nature and import of his work. But it's his discussion of the scientific process that steals the show." - Publishers Weekly

"Scientific understanding of earlier humans is fast evolving. For the nonce, this is a go-to volume on the subject for serious readers. (P.S. In spite of the title, the DNA of Neanderthal women is crucial—as Paabo well knows!)" - Library Journal

"For nonscientists, grasping the details of the technical problems facing Pääbo and his research group is no easy matter, but the larger question of the significance of his work makes the book worthwhile." - Kirkus

"It is a rare thing to read about an important development in science by its principal innovator, written in the spirit and style in which the research unfolded. Neanderthal Man is a dispatch from the front, and if you want to learn how real science is really done, I suggest you read it." - Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor, Emeritus, Harvard University

"Svante Pääbo's Neanderthal Man is the incredible personal story of one man's quest for our human origins using the latest genome sequence tools...This is science at its best and reinforces that contained in each of our genomes is the history of humanity." - J. Craig Venter, Chairman and President, J. Craig Venter Institute

"Svante Pääbo, a major architect in the study of paleo-DNA, has written a personal, insightful and sometimes very frank book about his relentless quest to understand the human family tree." - Donald Johanson, Founding Director of the Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University, and author of Lucy: The Beginnings of Humankind

"Problem by problem, solution by solution, Paäbo's gripping account of the discovery of our relationship with Neanderthals brilliantly conveys the thrill and reality of today's big science and the excitement of a major breakthrough." - Richard Wrangham, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Harvard University, and author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human

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More Information

Svante Pääbo is the founder of the field of ancient DNA. The director of the department of genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Pääbo has been featured in the New York Times, Newsweek, National Geographic, and The Economist, as well as on NPR, PBS, and BBC. In 2009 Time named him one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Pääbo lives in Leipzig, Germany.

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