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Bryan Sykes: DNA USA

Studying and writing about genetic histories is not just a day job for University of Oxford genetics professor Bryan Sykes. It’s more of a passion, a natural inclination.

Sykes’ first book was the best-selling The Seven Daughters of Eve, which examined the way science can help highlight the intricacies of genetic ancestries. He then turned his focus to the specific genetic roots anchoring Britain and Ireland with his study Saxons, Vikings & Celts. Now, he has turned that well-refined lens onto the complexities of this country with DNA USA: A Genetic Portrait of America.

The most fun of Sykes’ work is not in the way he sometimes finds evidence for long-held stereotypes—such as blue-blooded WASP families having some of the purest lineages in the country—but in the way in which he often overturns such confining categories. For example, almost all descendants of slaves who live in America also have some traces of European DNA. Furthermore, that Euro-DNA can even be found mixing with Native American DNA as far back as 10,000 years ago, long before Columbus supposedly discovered this land.

But more than just highlighting oddities woven into our biological fabric, Sykes uses his findings to look closer at our cultural differences and surprising similarities. In doing so, he helps to paint a broader picture of just how much we all share, even though we live in such a genetically diverse place—like the fact that the historically segregated South is also where you find the highest incidence of African DNA within the general white American public.

Join the author for a lecture co-sponsored by The King’s English Bookshop, as he discusses DNA USA and the processes by which he gathered genetic information. (Jacob Stringer)

Bryan Sykes: DNA USA @ Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, 801-524-8200, April 27, 7 p.m., free.

Date: Apr 27, 2012
Time: 7 pm
Phone: 801-484-9100
Address: 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City, 84105
Where: King's English