BEFORE THE DAWN: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors , by Nicholas Wade. N.Y.: The Penguin Press, 1906. Pp. 312. (GN281.W33).
Cambridge graduate and author Nicholas Wade is a reporter at the NEW YORK TIMES - previously with NATURE and SCIENCE, two leading scientific journals. Almost every scientific discipline is referenced in BEFORE the DAWN.
Geneticists have traced a small band of human ancestors, perhaps as few as 150, who left eastern Africa 50,000 years ago to cross the Red Sea. Their descendents, Homo sapiens, survived other humanoid species.
Wade quotes Darwin at the beginning of each chapter. "Darwin's insight was remarkable because he had no concept of genes, let alone of DNA, the chemical script in which the genetic instructions are inscribed…only since 2003 has the fully decoded script of the human genome been available for interpretation." (P. 265). Wade tells the story of human development from 50,000 B.C. to 2007 A.D. and does not stop because there is evidence that evolution continues. The reader may have to settle for something less than apodictic certainty, but a great feat has been accomplished by geneticists in recovering the lost history of our ancestors.
This Book Bite is akin to another created for GUNS, GERMS AND STEEL, also in our library. Nicholas Wade closes BEFORE the DAWN, a cross between deep scientific parlance and an easy read, by addressing the human evolutionary future. "We have come so far. There is so much farther to go."
…The Library Committee