The Gene Book Summary - The Gene Book explained in key points

The Gene summary

Siddhartha Mukherjee

An Intimate History

Listen to the first key idea

Key idea 1 of 11
4.5 (139 ratings)
23 mins
11 key ideas
Audio & text

What is The Gene about?

The Gene (2016) offers an in-depth look at the history of genetics. These blinks take you on a journey from the field’s humble beginnings to its modern day applications in diagnosing illnesses, debunking racist claims and creating genetically modified life. 

About the Author

Siddhartha Mukherjee is a physician, geneticist, researcher, stem cell biologist and cancer specialist. He is also the author of The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the Guardian First Book Award and the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for general nonfiction.

Table of Contents
    Key idea 1 of 11

    An exploration of heredity led to the discovery of genes and how they help pass on information.

    The story of the gene begins in 1864 with Austrian botanist Gregor Johann Mendel. As part of an experiment in breeding pea plants, Mendel noticed that parent plants passed on specific traits to the next generation of pea plants intact – that is, with the traits unaltered.

    A tall plant, for instance, when crossed with a dwarf plant, would produce only tall offspring – not mid-size offspring, which might indicate a blending of parental traits. In pea plants, tallness is a dominant trait, which means it overrides the trait of dwarfism.

    In other words, what Mendel had discovered is that hereditary information – the trait of tallness, for example – is passed down from generation to generation in indivisible units. 

    In identifying these indivisible units, Mendel had unveiled the smallest building block of heredity, the gene. 

    Some years later Dutch botanist Hugo De Vries revived Mendel’s earlier work and was able to merge his ideas on genetics with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, published when Mendel was still in school.

    Mendel’s heredity work perfectly complemented Darwin’s theory. If a species evolved as Darwin suggested, it would make sense that an animal transferred physical traits to its offspring through genes, or messengers that contained genetic information. 

    De Vries pushed Mendel’s theories further, explaining why genetic differences, or variants, occur in the first place. He discovered that such variants are accidental – freaks of nature, essentially – or as he called them, mutants

    The work of these three scientists combined to form a complete picture of species evolution. Nature produces random variations in traits that are then passed to offspring, and naturally selected over time as some offspring survive, and others die.

    Want to see all full key ideas from The Gene?

    Key ideas in The Gene

    More knowledge in less time
    Read or listen
    Read or listen
    Get the key ideas from nonfiction bestsellers in minutes, not hours.
    Find your next read
    Find your next read
    Get book lists curated by experts and personalized recommendations.
    Shortcasts New
    We’ve teamed up with podcast creators to bring you key insights from podcasts.

    Who should read The Gene

    • People interested in how genetic traits are passed on 
    • Students studying medicine or biology 
    • Anyone curious about the history of genetic research

    Categories with The Gene

    What our members say

    Sven O.

    It's highly addictive to get core insights on personally relevant topics without repetition or triviality. Added to that the apps ability to suggest kindred interests opens up a foundation of knowledge.

    Thi Viet Quynh N.

    Great app. Good selection of book summaries you can read or listen to while commuting. Instead of scrolling through your social media news feed, this is a much better way to spend your spare time in my opinion.

    Jonathan A.

    Life changing. The concept of being able to grasp a book's main point in such a short time truly opens multiple opportunities to grow every area of your life at a faster rate.

    Renee D.

    Great app. Addicting. Perfect for wait times, morning coffee, evening before bed. Extremely well written, thorough, easy to use.

    Start growing with Blinkist now
    25 Million
    Downloads on all platforms
    4.7 Stars
    Average ratings on iOS and Google Play
    Of Blinkist members create a better reading habit*
    *Based on survey data from Blinkist customers
    Powerful ideas from top nonfiction

    Try Blinkist to get the key ideas from 5,500+ bestselling nonfiction titles and podcasts. Listen or read in just 15 minutes.

    Start your free trial