The human family tree

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Spencer Wells is a leading population geneticist and director of National Geographic’s “Genographic Project.” He will be visiting Denison this fall.

Inquiring minds of all ages gathered in the Burton D. Morgan Center lecture hall this week to watch The Human Family Tree, a documentary film that traces the genetic heritage of Homo sapiens — all seven billion of us.

Nestor Matthews, associate professor of psychology, led a lively Q&A after the film, and several other professors were on hand to answer questions, too, on topics ranging from Native American history to Genghis Khan. Several books were raffled during the evening, along with the grand prize—a DNA testing kit.

In the film, population geneticist Spencer Wells tells the story of more than 100,000 years of human history through the DNA of seven residents of Brooklyn, N.Y., one of the most diverse corners of the world.

All of us share 99.9 percent of our DNA sequence. With the tiny .01 percent that is different, Wells says, geneticists can trace family trees and our migratory paths across the globe, all the way back to “Science Adam” and “Science Eve.”

Stay tuned for more this fall as Wells is coming to campus on Thursday, Sept. 8, to kick off the 2011-12 campus Spectrum Series theme, “Migrations,” with a lecture in Swasey Chapel.

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