“Mary Claire King, as much as any individual scholar, has changed how we think about what it means to be human. She did so using genetics as a lens through which to see what was otherwise invisible. In her hands this lens offered many insights. It was King who first identified a key gene in breast cancer. It was King who helped to identity the missing dead in Argentina in the 1980s. It would also be King who, in 1975, first compare the genetic similarity of humans and chimpanzees. It was known chimpanzees and humans were similar, kin, but just how similar? One could only really guess. And to compare a chimpanzee and a human, one hunched, one upright, one furry, one relatively bald, one able to build cities, write, read and make music, one not, it seemed clear that a fair number of differences needed to be accounted for.
King compared the genes of chimps and humans. When she did, she was in for a surprise. The humans and chimpanzees were not 50% similar genetically, or 60%, or even 80%, they were 98 to 99% similar, nearly identical. All of the differences between us and them, must relate to the 2%.
What has followed has been a rich and detailed consideration, a consideration that is still very much underway, of the 2%. We now know many of the genes that lead human chimpanzee immune systems to be so different, and have some suspicion as to which genes are associated with chimpanzees never get the kind of heart attack we get (for more on that, see the last three chapters of The Man Who Touched His Own Heart). But there was a catch” (read more).
***I’ve not yet read this but worth a look I think.