Review: The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis

When I was in secondary school, preparing to choose the subjects I would take for my GCSEs, there was an assembly where each head of department would make the case for their subject. I was fairly certain what subjects I was going to take already; Maths, English and R.E. (Religious Education) were obligatory, but the others I got to choose. When it came to Science, I was pretty much prepared just to do single, as I wanted to study Music and was not prepared to sacrifice History to do so. I was practically resolute until the Science teacher took the stage and uttered the worst thing to say to a worrier, “Sixth-Form Colleges prefer Double Science”. I had to go to sixth form, I had to go to University – so I scrapped Music and took Double Science, the equivalent of two GCSEs.

Needless to say I was hopeless, just managing to scrape a C; if only I had The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis, I would have at least succeeded in biology.

tcgThe Compatibility Gene takes readers on a global journey of discovery spanning 60 years, involving scores of scientists, and encompassing the history of transplants and immunology. That journey has revealed astonishing links between who we are as individuals and our never-ceasing struggle to survive disease.

Including vivid portraits of the scientists who worked tirelessly to unlock the secrets of compatibility genes, as well as patients who survived disease due to lucky genetic inheritances, The Compatibility Gene explains an aspect of human biology that will undoubtedly have profound impacts on medical practice in the 21st Century. 1

Not that I want to dissuade anyone from taking Science! Had there been different teachers, a different school, different students and a better attitude towards hard work, I would have done better.

Davis takes us on a journey through sixty years of the science of gene compatibility; from beginnings of skin grafts through to the discovery that no one cell has a singular function. Davis even touches on how this affects things beyond our own body, into reproduction and attraction. However, this is not just a book of facts, you also learn about the men and women behind the science. This connection between science and the people who make the discoveries was what made the book an ease to read – I do not assimilate bland facts well.

Scientists are often seen as bastardisers of nature, endlessly striving to up one another in the face of ethics. Discussing the contribution to saving lives and discovering more about ourselves – asking why we work this way – is very important in the way we view science and its discoveries. This is the sort of reading that is interesting, well written and engaging, which can offer a more pleasant view of science that mass media can present.

From the compatibility of our genes – in our organic super computer of a body – I have learnt that genes multifunction and function in interesting ‘overarching’ fashions. This is a fascinating book about how our compatibility genes work within the body from fighting disease right through to the debate on human attraction – read it now.

The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis was published on the 29th August by Penguin Books UK; this copy was kindly given to me to read by the publishers via Netgalley, thank you!

  1. Synopsis from GoodReads. []

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7 Comments on "Review: The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M Davis"

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DoingDewey
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This books sounds great! As someone who works in the sciences, I have great respect for authors who manage to explain science in an interesting and relatable way. I also agree with you completely about needing a human element to stories like this to keep them from becoming just bland facts. In most non-fiction books, I’ve found that the stories about relevant people are my favorite parts :)

Charlie
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Academic study-wise, I’m more physics, but give me a different scientific non-fiction book that has a narrative rather than just references and, well, this book sounds my sort of thing. Interesting to hear about the Double Science idea, I never heard that (though we were told we shouldn’t do only Physics or Physics-and-Biology, which I still don’t understand).

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