Carl Zimmer shortlist author interview
24 October 2018
An exploration of the most intimate mystery of all: how our ancestors help make us who we are. She Has Her Mother’s Laugh traces the history of heredity, both as a scientific question and a cultural touchstone.
What individuals do and do not inherit from their parents has fascinated humanity since Aristotle, if not before. Over recent centuries, decades and even years, science has
learned much that Aristotle could not have known, yet still too much of popular and media discussion revolves around the 'nature/nurture debate'.
The birth of genetics in the early 1900s seemed to solve the scientific question of heredity, but, Zimmer argues that heredity isn’t just about genes that pass from parent to child. Heredity continues within our own bodies, as a single cell gives rise to trillions of cells that make up our bodies. We say we inherit genes from our ancestors – using a word that once referred to kingdoms and estates – but we inherit other things that matter as much or more to our lives, from microbes to technologies we use to make life more comfortable. Zimmer helps to forge a new definition of heredity through lucid exposition and storytelling.
Carl Zimmer is a popular science writer and blogger who specialises in evolution and parasites. He has contributed to such publications as The New York Times, Discover and National Geographic. He is a fellow at Yale University’s Morse College.
Chris van Tulleken