A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived

The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes

By Adam Rutherford

Foreword by Siddhartha Mukherjee

Nothing less than a tour de force—a heady amalgam of science, history, a little bit of anthropology and plenty of nuanced, captivating storytelling.”—The New York Times Book Review

In our unique genomes, every one of us carries the story of our species—births, deaths, disease, war, famine, migration, and a lot of sex.

But those stories have always been locked away—until now.

Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived will upend your thinking on Neanderthals, evolution, royalty, race, and even redheads. (For example, we now know that at least four human species once roamed the earth.) Plus, here is the remarkable, controversial story of how our genes made their way to the Americas—one that’s still being written, as ever more of us have our DNA sequenced.

Rutherford closes with “A Short Introduction to the Future of Humankind,” filled with provocative questions that we’re on the cusp of answering: Are we still in the grasp of natural selection? Are we evolving for better or worse? And . . . where do we go from here?

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Meet the Authors
Adam Rutherford headshot

Adam Rutherford

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Siddhartha Mukherjee headshot

Siddhartha Mukherjee

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Review quotes
“A family portrait for all humanity . . . This enjoyable book has a great deal to say about our genetic code—or, more precisely, about how our knowledge of genetics is misused and misconstrued. . . . [Rutherford] proves an enthusiastic guide and a good storyteller.”—The Wall Street Journal

“An effervescent work, brimming with tales and confounding ideas carried in the ‘epic poem in our cells.’ ”—Guardian

“Rutherford raises significant questions and explains complex topics well, engaging readers with humor and smooth prose.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“A sweeping new view of the human evolution story, using the latest science of DNA as the central guide . . . . Recommended.”—Scientific American

“Adam Rutherford’s ‘A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived’ is the book we need.”
PZ Myers

“Challenging the simplistic thinking bolstered by the media, Rutherford adds both nuance and the thrill of excitement to viewing our species through a wider, stronger lens that can now see deep into our past.”—Amazon Book Review, Best Book of 2017

“[Rutherford’s] head-on, humane approach to such charged and misunderstood topics as intelligence and race make this an indispensable contribution to the popular science genre.”—Apple’s iBooks Best Book of September 2017

“Provides a good survey of the science of genomics and how it's changing the story of human evolution.”—Forbes

“An enthusiastic history of mankind in which DNA plays a far greater role than the traditional ‘bones and stones’ approach, followed by a hopeful if cautionary account of what the recent revolution in genomics foretells . . . Often quirky but thoughtful—solid popular science.”—Kirkus

“By turns amusing and provocative, this book, which may bruise the egos of a few genealogists, will appeal to both popular and technical science readers.”—Library Journal

“Ambitious, wide-ranging, and deeply researched, Rutherford’s book sets out to describe the history of the human species—from our origins as a slight, sly, naked, apelike creature somewhere in Africa to our gradual spread across the globe and our dominion over the planet.”
—from the foreword by Siddhartha Mukherjee

“You couldn’t ask for a better guide to the complex, often bewildering world of genetics than Adam Rutherford, who guides the reader with a deft hand through an ambitious tour of human history—seen through the lens of cutting-edge genomics research. A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived is equal parts informative, engaging, and frequently surprising—a must-read for fans of big-picture popular science.”
Jennifer Ouellette, author of Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self

“Rutherford manages to reveal fresh (and controversial) assessments of human history and dispel long-held beliefs with clarity, enthusiasm and humor.”—Shelf Awareness for Readers

Praise for the UK edition:

“Adam Rutherford’s book is well-written, stimulating, and entertaining. What’s more important, he consistently gets it right.”
Richard Dawkins

“Genetics is opening up the past as never before—Adam Rutherford puts the genes in genealogy brilliantly.”
Matt Ridley

“Magisterial, informative, and delightful.”
Peter Frankopan

“A revelatory and important exploration into the ties that bind us—all seven billion of us—together. I really was enthralled.”
Sunjeev Sahota, author of The Year of the Runaways

“Fifteen years ago, the first sequence and analysis of the human genome was published. A monumental surge in genetics followed. Science writer and broadcaster Adam Rutherford rides that tide and traces its effects, first focusing on how genetics has enriched, and in some cases upset, our understanding of human evolution, then examining the revelations of recent findings, such as deep flaws in the concept of race. . . . Rutherford unpeels the science with elegance.”—Nature

“Science books can sometimes be rather stuffy or prissy—but no one can accuse Adam Rutherford of this. In his exploration of ‘the stories in our genes’ that word stories is foremost—and Rutherford proves himself time and again to be an accomplished storyteller. . . . I love the many meanders that Rutherford takes along the way, whether it’s the horrendously inbred family tree of the Hapsburgs resulting in the sad case of Charles II, or the unique genetic laboratory provided by the small and relatively isolated population of Iceland. Rutherford is at his best when exploring an apparently trivial but genuinely interesting topic like variations in earwax type. This is dependent on a single gene and his exploration of its distribution across the world is delightful .  .  .  A magnificent achievement, a big, friendly bear of a book that pummels the reader with delightful stories and no doubt would buy you a drink if it could.”
Brian CleggPopScienceBooks

“Rutherford’s follow-up to his highly regarded first book Creation is an effervescent work, brimming with tales and confounding ideas carried in the ‘epic poem in our cells.’ The myriad storylines will leave you swooning. . . . Rutherford, a trained geneticist, is an enthusiastic guide. He is especially illuminating on the nebulous concept of race, how it both does and doesn’t exist . . . Rutherford has proved himself a commendable historian—one who is determined to illuminate the commonality of Homo sapiens.”
Colin GrantGuardian
Product Details
Categories
Number of pages
416
Publication date
October 03, 2017
ISBN
9781615194049