Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Explorer Gene

Tom Cheshir
Imagine travelling to the top of the stratosphere or the bottom of the ocean, or circling the world in a vessel you’ve built yourself. Now imagine being the first to perform any of these feats without the advantage of an engineering background; seemingly impossible goals for ordinary people, but not the Piccards. Three generations of one family have been there and built that, making unbelievable contributions to science and setting a few records in the process. 
Auguste, Jacques, and Bertrand Piccard

Tom Cheshire’s The Explorer Gene is a true account of the Piccard family’s efforts in research, reading less like a documentary and more like a fictional thriller. The story outlines the trials and successes of Auguste, Jacques, and Bertrand Piccard, three extraordinary pioneers of inner and outer space. Page after page I found myself fearing for their lives, even though I was privy to their individual successes. Through minor explosions, weather disasters and premature obituaries, The Explorer Gene delivers not only a biography of one fascinating family, but a riveting story of three lifetimes of risk-taking, perseverance, and triumph.
Cheshire astutely turns historical facts into a fast-paced and unpredictably humorous read. His brief introduction piques the reader’s interest in the idea of an “explorer gene”- a section of DNA that might be responsible for novelty seeking. But Cheshire chooses not to make this the focus of the book, instead using the Piccard success as the underlying message that if something can be dreamed, it can be done. Be warned, though; The Explorer Gene may just spark the adventurer in you. 
Laura Martin's lifelong addiction to fiction took a back seat when she went to the University of Guelph for Molecular Biology and Genetics. She became fascinated with neurological conditions like Alzheimer's Disease and dementia, and is hoping to attend Dalhousie University in the spring for a Masters in Neuroscience.

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