Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Source of the Human Past

Author(s): David Reich


A groundbreaking book about how ancient DNA has profoundly changed our understanding of human history.

Geneticists like David Reich have made astounding advances in the field of genomics, which is proving to be as important as archeology, linguistics, and written records as a means to understand our ancestry.

In Who We Are and How We Got Here, Reich allows readers to discover how the human genome provides not only all the information a human embryo needs to develop but also the hidden story of our species. Reich delves into how the genomic revolution is transforming our understanding of modern humans and how DNA studies reveal deep inequalities among different populations, between the sexes, and among individuals. Provocatively, Reich's book suggests that there might very well be biological differences among human populations but that these differences are unlikely to conform to common stereotypes.

Drawing upon revolutionary findings and unparalleled scientific studies, Who We Are and How We Got Here is a captivating glimpse into humankind--where we came from and what that says about our lives today.


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Powerful writing and extraordinary insights animate this endlessly fascinating account, by a world scientific leader, of who we modern humans are and how our ancestors arrived in the diverse corners of the world. I could not put the book down. * Robert Weinberg, Professor of Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology * In this comprehensive and provocative book, David Reich exhumes and examines fundamental questions about our origin and future using powerful evidence from human genetics. What does "race" mean in 2018? How alike and how unlike are we? What does identity mean? Reich's book is sobering and clear-eyed, and, in equal part, thrilling and thought provoking. There were times that I had to stand up and clear my thoughts to continue reading this astonishing and important book. * Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies * David Reich's magisterial book is a riveting account of human pre-history and history, through the new lens provided by ancient DNA data. The story of human populations, as he shows, is ever one of widespread, repeated mixing, debunking the fiction of a "pure" population. * Molly Przeworski, Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University * This book will revolutionize our understanding of human prehistory. David Reich sheds new light on our past from the vantage of a sparkling new discipline-the analysis of ancient DNA. He places migration in the limelight, demonstrating that humans did not just evolve, they spread, often on dramatic scales. * Peter Bellwood, Professor of Archaeology at Australian National University * Who We Are and How We Got Here dramatically revises our understanding of the deep history of our species in our African homeland and beyond. Reich's beautifully written book reads like a detective novel and demonstrates a hard truth that often makes many of us uncomfortable: not only are all human beings mixed, but our intuitive understanding of the evolution of the population structure of the world around us is not to be trusted. * Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Professor of Literature at Harvard University and Executive Producer of "Finding Your Roots" * This riveting book will blow you away with its rich and astounding account of where we came from and why that matters. Reich tells the surprising story of how humans got to every corner of the planet, which was revealed only after he and other scientists unlocked the secrets of ancient DNA. The courageous, compassionate and highly personal climax will transform how you think about the meaning of ancestry and race. * Daniel E. Lieberman, Professor of Human Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University and author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease * Reich's book reads like notes from the frontline of the 'Ancient DNA Revolution' with all the spellbinding drama and intrigue that comes with such a huge transformation in our understanding of human history. * Anne Wojcicki, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of 23andMe * In just five years the study of ancient DNA has transformed our understanding of world prehistory. The geneticist David Reich, one of the pioneers in this field, here gives the brilliantly lucid first account of the resulting new view of human origins and of the later dispersals which went on to shape the modern world. * Colin Renfrew, Emeritus Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge _ * The breakthrough that all archaeologists have been waiting for; a truly exciting account of the way in which ancient DNA is making us rethink prehistory. Essential reading for everyone interested in the past. * Barry Cunliffe * Whole genome mapping hasn't just revolutionised our world, it has helped us rethink our past. * Simon Ings & Liz Else, New Scientist * Gives the first comprehensive account of this newly revealed prehistory... an astonishing book. * Juliet Sam, Daily Telegraph * Reich gives us a window into what ancient DNA can tell us about human evolution, the peopling of the world, continent by continent, and the population mixing that makes us who we are today. * Turi King, Nature * Thrilling in its clarity and its scope. * Peter Forbes, The Guardian * Who We Are and How We Got Here provides a marvellous synthesis of the field. * Clive Cookson, Financial Times * This is a compendious book... its importance cannot be overstated and neither can some of its best stories. * Bryan Appleyard, Sunday Times * Reich has produced an invaluable resource that is likely to become an enduring intellectual touchstone. * Tom Booth, British Archaeology * David Reich uses the power of modern genome analysis to show the fascinating complexity of human migration and history. By letting the data lead him, he treads a narrow path between racists and xenophobes on one side and left-wing ideologues on the other. Although many of his conclusions will be controversial, he starts a necessary conversation about what modern genome analysis can tell us about the variability of human populations. * Sir Venki Ramakrishnan, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society, London * Few subjects fascinate us as much as human origins... If you want to understand our origins over the course of the last 100,000 years, this book will be the best up-to-date account for you. * Jared Diamond, New York Times Book Review * The Harvard professor, who is 43, was recently highlighted by the journal Nature as one of 10 people who mattered in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA from "niche pursuit to industrial process". * Paul Rincon, BBC News * The conclusions of this book are reassuringly complex and nuanced. But they are no less approachable, no less captivating for that. Indeed, the result is to bring prehistory almost disarmingly closehe brings whole socieities from that past vividly to life. * Harry de Quetteville, The Daily Telegraph * Professor David Reich of Harvard Medical School... is not a disinterested observer of a fast-developing field; he is a participant and, in fact, a driver, of the ancient DNA revolution and it is his and his team's research that has accomplished much of the reshaping of human history. So this book has the feel of a first-hand account from the trenches that also carries with it a high-level perspective of what is going on where and why. * Tony Joseph, The Hindu * Reich's intellectual curiosity and passion for research shine through every page of his book... This book is required reading for everyone interested in an up-to-date account of the spellbinding story of human prehistory. * Debbie Kennett, Who Do You Think You Are? * It is an incredibly exciting overview of a revolution in the making. * Leon Vlieger, The Inquisitive Biologist *

David Reich is a Professor of Genetics at Harvard University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator. In 2015 he was highlighted by Nature magazine as one of "10 people who matter" in all of science for his role in transforming the field of ancient DNA "from niche pursuit to industrial process." In 2017 he was awarded the Dan David Prize in the Archaeological and Natural Sciences for the computational discovery of intermixing between Neanderthals and modern humans.

General Fields

  • : 9780198821250
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : Oxford University Press
  • : 0.618
  • : March 2018
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : David Reich
  • : Hardback
  • : English
  • : 368