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Before the Dawn


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About the Author

Nicholas Wade received a BA in natural sciences from King's College, Cambridge. He was the deputy editor of Nature magazine in London and then became that journal's Washington correspondent. He joined Science magazine in Washington as a reporter and later moved to The New York Times, where he has been an editorial writer, concentrating on issues of defense, space, science, medicine, technology, genetics, molecular biology, the environment, and public policy, a science reporter, and a science editor.


New York Times science reporter Wade has written a fascinating examination of the biological and sociocultural evolution of our ancestors that focuses on genetic change, social behavior, and symbolic language. He pays special attention to the emergence of our human species in Africa and its subsequent migrations to and dispersals in both Asia and Europe. Wade's analysis stresses the contributions of DNA research to understanding and appreciating human biosocial adaptations, especially the evolution of articulate speech. Of particular importance is his demonstration of the value of Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA inheritance for determining the history of human populations over the last five million years. Other topics he discusses range from racism and sedentism to warfare and corroborating evidence from genetics and archaeology for reconstructing our prehistoric past. With extensive notes and excellent illustrations, this is recommended for all large academic and public science collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 12/05.]-H. James Birx, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Scientists are using DNA analysis to understand our prehistory: the evolution of humans; their relation to the Neanderthals, who populated Europe and the Near East; and Homo erectus, who roamed the steppes of Asia. Most importantly, geneticists can trace the movements of a little band of human ancestors, numbering perhaps no more than 150, who crossed the Red Sea from east Africa about 50,000 years ago. Within a few thousand years, their descendents, Homo sapiens, became masters of all they surveyed, the other humanoid species having become extinct. According to New York Times science reporter Wade, this DNA analysis shows that evolution isn't restricted to the distant past: Iceland has been settled for only 1,000 years, but the inhabitants have already developed distinctive genetic traits. Wade expands his survey to cover the development of language and the domestication of man's best friend. And while "race" is often a dirty word in science, one of the book's best chapters shows how racial differences can be marked genetically and why this is important, not least for the treatment of diseases. This is highly recommended for readers interested in how DNA analysis is rewriting the history of mankind. Maps. (Apr. 24) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Meaty, well-written. (Kirkus Reviews)

Impeccable, fearless, responsible and absorbing . . . Bound to be the gold standard in the field for a very long time. (Lionel Tiger, Rutgers University)

Timely and informative. (The New York Times Book Review)

By far the best book I have ever read on humanity's deep history. (E. O. Wilson)

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