Office—Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, 26 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA 02138; fax: 617-495-5667.
Geneticist. Harvard University, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Cambridge, MA, research associate. Also worked as an instructor at Harvard University.
(With James D. Watson) DNA: The Secret of Life, Alfred A. Knopf (New York, NY), 2003.
Also author of screenplay, DNA, and contributor to numerous scientific and popular journals, including Science, Gentetics, the New York Observer, and the London Review of Books.
A geneticist with a special interest in the fruit fly, Andrew Berry was one of a team of graduate students who overturned a classic evolutionary assumption that the tiny chromosome 4 never varied across the entire fruit fly species. It was an impressive start for a career that has taken Berry to his affiliation with Harvard University and as a research associate at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology.
In 2002, Berry compiled a group of writings from one of the most brilliant figures in the history of evolutionary science. Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology brings together the wide-ranging pieces produced by a man who independently discovered evolution but made the mistake of sending his ideas to his idol Charles Darwin, who thereupon rushed his own theory into print. While Wallace was denied the title of father of evolution, he continued to write extensively on a wide range of subjects, and Berry's collection "introduces the reader to his pioneering explorations in natural science and his critical insights into social issues," noted Library Journal reviewer H. James Birx. Lacking Darwin's wealth and connections, Wallace had to finance his own expeditions and overcome sometimes heartbreaking obstacles, as when he lost his entire record of studies on South American flora and fauna when his ship sunk on its way back to England. Still, Wallace seemed to have retained his enthusiasm and optimism throughout his long life, and Berry's collection illustrates his determined, often unconventional ideas and interests. As New Scientist reviewer Roy Herbert found, Wallace's "enjoyment of living and intellectual verve inform it all, from his thoughts on evolution and the science of biogeography, which he founded, to those on conservation, public education, and that most Victorian of interests, spiritualism."
Having reintroduced the writings of this Victorian genius, Berry next teamed with a legend of genetics to produce a chronicle of the most recent developments in evolutionary biology. With James D. Watson, codiscoverer of the double-helix model of DNA, Berry coauthored DNA: The Secret of Life, "an illuminating account of DNA and genetics from the ninteenth century to the present," according to Jon Beckwith in American Scientist. After a brief review of genetics from Gregor Mendel, the monk who first theorized the science of genetic inheritance, to Watson and Francis Crick's discovery of the double helix structure, the book describes the many ways genetics has revolutionized science. "What makes this text extraordinary is its accessibility even to readers with little background in biology," noted a reviewer for Science News. At the same time, the book confronts the fascinating, and sometimes disturbing, implications of this powerful knowledge, such as the use of genetic fingerprinting, genetically modified plants, and behavioral science based on genetic tampering. "If by his conclusion, a reader still adamantly opposes this or that technology, at least the stance won't be in the face of ignorance," observed Booklist reviewer Gilbert Taylor. Other subjects include the search for the genetic basis of various diseases, the use of DNA evidence in criminology, and the contribution of genetics to the study of human evolution. And "while the text is written in Watson's voice, credit must surely go to Berry as an able coauthor," commented a Kirkus Reviews contributor.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Scientist, July-August, 2003, Jon Beckwith, "Double Take on the Double Helix," p. 1107.
Booklist, March 1, 2003, Gilbert Taylor, review of DNA: The Secret of Life, p. 125.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of DNA, p. 372.
Library Journal, August, 2002, H. James Birx, review of Infinite Tropics: An Alfred Russel Wallace Anthology, p. 137; April 1, 2003, Rita Hoots, review of DNA, p. 125.
Natural History, February, 2002, Richard Milner, review of Infinite Tropics, p. 74.
Nature, April 25, 2002, Charlotte Sleigh, "Putting Evolution in Context," p. 790.
New Scientist, July 6, 2002, Roy Herbert, "Verve in Adversity," p. 57.
Science News, May 10, 2003, review of DNA, p. 303.*