Saturday, August 18, 2018

Review of THE TANGLED TREE A Radical New History of Life By David Quammen In NYTimes. And an excerptfrom the book. Despite what the review says, two women scientists are mentioned in the book “Meanwhile, the corn geneticist Barbara McClintock, discovering genes that bounce from one point to another on the chromosomes of her favorite plant, worked with very little support or recognition through the prime years of her career—and then accepted a Nobel Prize at age eighty-one.
Lynn Margul is, a Chicago-educated microbiologist unique in almost every way, shared at least one thing with McClintock: the frustrations BLUES1P_Quammen_TangledTree_KB.indd 13 6/21/18 4:06 PM xiv Three Surprises: An Introduction of being dismissed by some colleagues as an eccentric and obdurate woman. In Margulis’s case, it was for reviving an old idea that had long been considered wacky: endosymbiosis. What she meant by the term was, roughly, the cooperative integration of living creatures within living creatures. That is, not just tiny creatures within the bellies or noses of big creatures, but cells within cells. More specifically, Margulis argued that the cells constituting every creature in the more complex divisions of life—every human, every animal, every plant, every fungus—are chimerical things, assembled with captured bacteria inside nonbacterial receptacles. Those particular bacteria, over vast stretches of time, have become transmogrified into cellular organs. Imagine an oyster, transplanted into a cow, that becomes a functional bovine kidney. This seemed crazy when Margulis proposed it in 1967. But she was right about the matter, mostly.”

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