Jacob's Legacy


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A Genetic View of Jewish History

David B. Goldstein

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A geneticist explains the science behind genetic history and what it has revealed about Jewish origins

Who are the Jews? Where did they come from? What is the connection between an ancient Jewish priest in Jerusalem and today’s Israeli sunbather on the beaches of Tel Aviv? These questions stand at the heart of this engaging book. Geneticist David Goldstein analyzes modern DNA studies of Jewish populations and examines the intersections of these scientific findings with the history (both biblical and modern) and oral tradition of the Jews. With a special gift for translating complex scientific concepts into language understandable to all, Goldstein delivers an accessible, personal, and fascinating book that tells the history of a group of people through the lens of genetics.

In a series of detective-style stories, Goldstein explores the priestly lineage of Jewish males as manifested by Y chromosomes; the Jewish lineage claims of the Lemba, an obscure black South African tribe; the differences in maternal and paternal genetic heritage among Jewish populations; and much more. The author also grapples with the medical and ethical implications of our rapidly growing command of the human genomic landscape. The study of genetics has not only changed the study of Jewish history, Goldstein shows, it has altered notions of Jewish identity and even our understanding of what makes a people a people.

David B. Goldstein is professor of molecular genetics and director of the Institute for Genome Science and Policy’s Center for Population Genomics and Pharmacogenetics, Duke University. He lives in Durham, NC.

"Even readers unfamiliar with science will have no difficulty understanding this excellent book. David Goldstein clearly explains how modern genetics integrates with multiple aspects of Jewish history and demography."—Kenneth Kidd, Yale University

"Goldstein is one of a handful of people qualified to write a book such as this, and he succeeds very well in providing accounts both of scientific studies and of Jewish historical background."—Stephen Schaffner, Program in Medical and Population Genetics, The Broad Institute

“To complement the rich heritage of ancient Jewish text, Dr. Goldstein brings a new kind of ancient record—the history contained in our DNA. From the patterns of DNA variation among populations, he gleans insight into the social history of the Jewish people. Dr. Goldstein is a superb scientist and a captivating storyteller. Jacob’s Legacy is a gem.”—Eric Lander, Director of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and one of the principal leaders of the Human Genome Project

"An inspiring example of a magnificent analysis, written for a  general audience, showing how multidisciplinary research using information from history, genetics, anthropology and more can give precious light on a great ethnos, the Jews."—Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, professor of Genetics emeritus active, Stanford Medical School

"Goldstein's role in much of the research into Jewish genetic history, his sober, unsensationalist tone and his emphasis on the limited conclusions that can be drawn from such work lend credibility to his account of his stunning results."—Publishers Weekly

"[An] important and illuminating book—written with keen intelligence and deep love of its subject,—without sacrificing scientific accuracy for the sake of tribal nostalgia. . . . Goldstein begins with a succinct and easily understood description of the principles of genetics, particularly as they apply to human populations. He avoids technical jargon whenever possible, and defines the science in a language that even a neophyte reader can readily grasp. . . . We are then treated to the kind of entertaining and enlightening story that can make science both appreciated and applauded by those outside the discipline. . . . [A] short but masterful book."—Jerome Groopman, New Republic

"With a special gift for translating complex scientific concepts into language understandable to all, Goldstein delivers an accessible, personal, and fascinating book that tells the history of a group of people through the lens of genetics."—Duke Today

"To paraphrase the old ad for rye bread, you don't have to be Jewish to love this book. It is a specific—and gripping—example of how the lens of genetics will eventually inform our understanding of all peoples."—Michelle Press, Scientific American

ISBN: 9780300151282
Publication Date: May 12, 2009
176 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
5 b/w illus.
The End of Genetics

Designing Humanity's DNA

David B. Goldstein

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