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The fascinating story of the hidden world of bird-breeding, of contentious ideas in 1920s Germany, and of two amateur scientists who unwittingly managed to be decades ahead of their time. Long before Dolly the Sheep or bioengineered corn, there was the Red Canary-the first organism to be manipulated by genetic technology, back in the 1920s. The effort to produce a red canary invoked all of the deep issues that troubled genetic engineering decades later: the nature of genes and how they work, the specter of eugenics, and the relative roles of nature and nurture in determining what an organism is. Behavioral ecologist Tim Birkhead describes how a sweet-voiced green bird discovered by Spanish explorers in the 1300s became a craze in Renaissance Europe, how breeders gradually turned its green plumage to yellow, and how a pair of German scientists used the first bit of gene technology in the 1920s to produce an almost-red canary. But the true red canary would not come until the 1960s, when British scientists successfully bred one, and genes alone would not be sufficient to create one. A Brand New Bird is a compelling tale of a fascinating episode in the history of genetics.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780465006656
ISBN-10: 0465006655
Format: Hardback
(210mm x 140mm x 25mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Basic Books
Publisher: The Perseus Books Group
Publish Date: 30-Jul-2003
Country of Publication: United States

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Author Biography - Tim Birkhead

Tim Birkhead trained in behavioral ecology at Oxford University under Richard Dawkins and is now Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield. He contributes regularly to the "Independent, New Scientist, Natural History," and "BBC Wildlife." His previous books include "Promiscuity" and "Great Auk Islands," and he is co-editor of "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Ornithology."

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