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The X in Sex: How the X Chromosome Controls Our Lives Revised Edition

4.0 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674016217
ISBN-10: 0674016211
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his fourth-century BCE Generation of Animals, Aristotle wondered what made us into males and females, and the question has vexed scientists ever since. Bainbridge (Making Babies) shows that the answers are at last partly illuminated, thanks to advances in our understanding of the mechanisms at work in sex chromosomes. He debunks once and for all Aristotle's notion that maleness, and hence the Y chromosome, is a more active, superior state of being, and instead hails the X chromosome as more profound, interesting and powerful-not just more than its "sad, shrunken" Y counterpart, but more than any other chromosome in our cells. First explaining how the sex chromosomes-which he calls the "seeds of sexiness"-turn undifferentiated embryonic tissue into testicles or allow the formation of ovaries, Bainbridge goes on to demonstrate how the X chromosome is actually in control of the process. Examples throughout the animal kingdom and instances of humans with anomalous chromosome lineups (like XXY or XO) show X's role in sex determination, autoimmune and sex-linked diseases. Bainbridge also reveals how women's cells "deal with the double bounty of X chromosomes," why girl identical twins are less identical and less rare than boy identical twins, and how studying women's tumors showed scientists that cancer begins in a "lone, fatal" cell. With first-rate research and winning, dry wit, Bainbridge crafts a slim volume of science made simple. 4 line illustrations.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Scientific American

Jones and Bainbridge arrive in different ways at the same conclusion: women are the more resilient sex. Jones, professor of genetics at University College London, puts it bluntly: "[M]ales are wilting away.... From sperm count to social status, and from fertilization to death, as civilization advances those who bear Y chromosomes are in relative decline." Bainbridge, lecturer in comparative anatomy and physiology at the Royal Veterinary College in London, focuses more on the biology of sex differences. "Almost every woman is, inside and out, a patchwork of two different cells--some using one X chromosome, and some the other.... What more all-encompassing way could one want for women to be more complex than men?" Consequently, they are less vulnerable to such sex-linked diseases as hemophilia, muscular dystrophy and color blindness. (131)

Editors of Scientific American --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Revised edition (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674016211
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674016217
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,275,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love to read science books because they continually amaze me with the hidden worlds that they reveal. This book is no exception. Author Bainbridge has written a slim book of 181 pages, that tells us the marvels, eccentricities, and terrors hidden away in the X chromosome. It always amuses me when people extol the human body as the epitome of creation excellence. When you look deeply into our physical engineering, though, you usually start wondering if perhaps we were designed by a fractious committee.
It is the male Y chromosome, and specifically the "Sry" gene on that chromosome, that actively sets out to make any cell blob containing it to turn into a male. But the Y chromosome is really just a dried up fossil of a gene that serves no other purpose than determining sex. It is the X that has many functions.
The book answers many questions. Why are diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy and hemophilia mostly limited to males? Why are male identical twins really identical, while female identical twins are not totally identical? Why are approximately 50% of female body cell X chromosomes different from the other 50% while in a male the cells are all alike? Why are women the main sufferers from autoimmune diseases? What happens when a woman is born with only one sex chromosome, a single X? Why is it that color blindness affects mostly men, and why is color blindness almost inevitably red-green, and almost never blue-yellow?
We also learn that many other mammals live and reproduce perfectly well with no Y chromosomes. Armadillos generally give birth to identical quadruplets. And on and on goes Mr. Bainbridge with the facts about the unusual X chromosome that is an astounding two inches long yet is able to intricately fold itself to fit into every tiny body cell.
This is a very accessible book that should educate and, indeed, entertain anyone who picks it up.
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Format: Hardcover
Let me start out by saying "I apologize for the title. It's a dirty job, and somebody had to do it." Second I'd like to note that I'd rather give this book a 4.5, but it errs much more towards the 5 end of the spectrum than the 4, so I will be generous and round up.
This book is extremely interesting, even exciting, and I read it in two sittings. It's peppered throughout with dry British humor (you have to be a fan of British humorists to notice it most of the time, I think), and very entertaining as well as edifying. This book is a joy to read because it is well-written 97% of the time. For the other 3%, the author lost me by referring to something that was (probably) in the book prior to that point, but I didn't recall it and he neglected to put a little parenthetical reminder as to what it was exactly. And sometimes the flow seems a tiny bit scattered. This is why it would be a 4.5 star book, and not a flat-out 5, if I had that choice. However, they are extremely minor quibbles, and I only mention them at all because otherwise the book is so wonderful. (I would also LOVE more information, but I can't fault the author for not including more -- the length is just right for a trade science book.)
David Bainbridge's premise is that the X chromosome is wildly underestimated, or perhaps underrated, and that some people may even go so far as to use the fact that the (stunted) Y chromosome is more 'powerful' -- presumably because its mere presence creates a boy fetus instead of a female (most of the time), even when multiple Xes "gang up" on it -- to further a sexist agenda. Mr. Bainbridge went so far as to argue that the X is a much more powerful chromosome, and that people should wonder how women cope with two of them instead of assuming that they are so weak that women feel no ill effects.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Had I know the author was a Brit...Though promised written with humor, I've no yet sound it. :'prhaps someday, then, I'll pick it up and get past the repetition and find the humor. It has great points, points for deep thought. Taken in small does.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How, exactly, do we become male or female? The real answer is not as simple as the one you learned in high school biology, and David Bainbridge takes his readers on a fascinating, humorous, and thoroughly informative journey through the story of the answer (as you may have guessed, it has something to do with the X chromosome). While much of the information in this book will not be new for people with an understanding of genetics greater than or equal to that of a typical college sophomore biology student, the presentation of the material in this book almost ensures that all save biologists will not be bored. Even then, the wonderful humor ]the historical examples might make a quick read worthwhile.

Often, books of this type err in one of two directions in their attempts to be both accessible and informative. I have read some that overdo the humor and water down the information to such an extent that little is learned after a read of the book. On the other hand, popular science can sometimes be too dense and jargon-heavy for a reader unfamiliar with the subject to appreciate the material. The X in Sex strikes a near perfect balance between these two extremes. The book is chock full of interesting and relevant information, from the specifics of the X chromosome (and there are many interesting aspects) to many wonderful historical anecdotes and humorous insertions. At times, the author got a bit too witty for his own good, but the humorous writing style is on the whole very beneficial. Sure, we don't get any of the latest discoveries in this book, but as a primer to whet the palette of the interested person, one could do far worse.

Although I am a chemist with a strong biological background, genetics was never a favorite subject of mine. This book, however, has reminded me that there is a great, simple beauty to genetics, and plenty of interesting tales to tell.
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