A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Story of our Genes  by Adam  Rutherford
(Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2016)

A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Story of our Genes

by Adam Rutherford

This is a story about you. It is the history of who you are and how you came to be. It is unique to you, as it is for every one of the 100 billion modern humans who has ever drawn breath. But it is also our collective story, because in each of our genomes we carry the history of the whole of our species.

Since scientists first read the human genome in 2001 it has been subject to all sorts of claims, counterclaims and myths. Drawing together the latest discoveries in this rapidly changing area of science, Adam Rutherford show us that in fact our genomes should be read not like instruction manuals, but more like epic poems. Genes determine less than we have been led to believe about us as individuals, but vastly more about us as a species.

In this captivating journey through the expanding landscape of genetics, written with great clarity and wit, Adam Rutherford reveals what our genes now tell us about human history and what history tells us about our genes. From Neanderthal discoveries to microbiology, from redheads to dead royals, criminology to race relations, evolution to epigenetics, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived is a demystifying and illuminating new portrait of who we are and how we came to be.

Praise for A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived:

A Brief History is nothing less than a tour de force — a heady amalgam of science, history, a little bit of anthropology and plenty of nuanced, captivating storytelling. - Misha Angrist, The New York Times


Rutherford takes off on an extraordinary adventure, following the wandering trail of DNA across the globe and back in time. And on the way, he reveals what DNA can - and can’t - tell us about ourselves, our history and our deep evolutionary heritage. From the Neanderthals to the Vikings, from the Queen of Sheba to Richard III, Rutherford goes in search of our ancestors, tracing the genetic clues deep into the past. Wide-ranging, witty, full of surprises and studded with sparkling insights - Rutherford uncovers the epic history of the human species, written in DNA. ”
- Alice Roberts
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, bestselling author of The Silk Roads
Adam Rutherford's book is well-written, stimulating and entertaining. What's more important, he consistently gets it right. ”
- Richard Dawkins
A brilliant, authoritative, surprising, captivating introduction to human genetics. If you know little about the human story, you will be spellbound. If you know a lot about the human story, you’ll be spellbound. It’s that good.”
- Brian Cox
This book is a captivating delight. With witty, authoritative and profound prose, Adam Rutherford tackles the biggest of issues - where we came from, and what makes us who we are. He does more than any author to cut through the confusion around genetics, and to reveal what modern genetics has to say about our identity, history and future”
- Ed Yong, author of I Contain Multitudes
If you are ethnically British, one thing is certain: your ancestors definitely had sex with Neanderthals. On the other hand, they probably didn't have sex with Vikings, who, it turns out, did a fair bit more pillaging than raping. And, depending on the flakiness of your earwax, it is just conceivable that your relatives' unattractiveness to hairy and horned invaders was related to their body odour. DNA is fragile, confusing and contains a lot of pointless data. But unlike other accounts of human history it doesn't lie. Adam Rutherford's soaring book is an exposition of what this new science really tells us about who we are”
- Tom Whipple, The Times
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 Grant, Guardian
This scintillating tour of the latest genetic discoveries blurs the boundaries between science and history, encompassing Neanderthal discoveries, microbiology, the possible extinction of redheads, dead royals, race relations, criminology, evolution and eugenics. Our genomes, says writer and broadcaster Rutherford winningly, should be read less like instruction manuals, and more like epic poems”
- The Bookseller
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