“Will undoubtedly shape our understanding of the global ecosystem for decades to come.”
—Siddhartha Mukherjee, author of The Emperor of All Maladies
A celebrated genome scientist sails around the world, collecting tens of millions of marine microbes and revolutionizing our understanding of the microbiome that sustains us.
Upon completing his historic work on the Human Genome Project, J. Craig Venter declared that he would sequence the genetic code of all life on earth. Thus began a fifteen-year quest to collect DNA from the world’s oldest and most abundant form of life: microbes. Boarding the Sorcerer II, a 100-foot sailboat turned research vessel, Venter traveled over 65,000 miles around the globe to sample ocean water and the microscopic life within.
In The Voyage of Sorcerer II, Venter and science writer David Ewing Duncan tell the remarkable story of these expeditions and of the momentous discoveries that ensued—of plant-like bacteria that get their energy from the sun, proteins that metabolize vast amounts of hydrogen, and microbes whose genes shield them from ultraviolet light. The result was a massive library of millions of unknown genes, thousands of unseen protein families, and new lineages of bacteria that revealed the unimaginable complexity of life on earth. Yet despite this exquisite diversity, Venter encountered sobering reminders of how human activity is disturbing the delicate microbial ecosystem that nurtures life on earth. In the face of unprecedented climate change, Venter and Duncan show how we can harness the microbial genome to develop alternative sources of energy, food, and medicine that might ultimately avert our destruction.
A captivating story of exploration and discovery, The Voyage of Sorcerer II restores microbes to their rightful place as crucial partners in our evolutionary past and guides to our future.
Writing with award-winning science journalist Duncan, Venter presents a lively account of a groundbreaking exploration of the microbiome of the Earth’s waters…Important and adventurous science on the high seas.
An epic travelogue, brimming with the excitement of discovery. With characteristic panache, Venter unveils the teeming array of bacteria, viruses, and eukaryotes that crowd our planet’s oceans. His research will undoubtedly shape our understanding of the global ecosystem for decades to come.
An exhilarating account of how creative science is accomplished. Few would guess just how many microbes live with us and how much they contribute to human health, both directly in our bodies and by making sure the air we breathe supports life. I have always loved bacteria, but after reading this I have an enhanced appreciation of their value to life on this planet. I highly recommend it.
The Voyage of Sorcerer II combines panoramic linguistic imagery with trenchant scientific insights to provide the reader a virtual seat aboard the most important ship of discovery since Darwin’s Beagle. Venter reveals to us why Earth should be called ‘Water’ and why the ocean’s microscopic life is our deepest and most magical reservoir of genetic diversity. This page-turner gives each of us the thrill of seeing our planet’s largest universe through the brilliant, intrepid eyes of the scientist who has done more than anyone to unlock the secrets of life.
A tour de force. Following in the paths of the Beagle and the Challenger, Venter has expanded biology’s horizons. This book explores microbial life on a global scale, providing cutting-edge solutions to problems of environmental change.
A fascinating inside look at Venter’s historic expeditions that makes the experiences, the analysis, and the transformative discoveries come alive.
We humans may think we are the most important species on Earth, but we’re actually just bit players in a far broader and more complex microbial world. In this exciting journey into that deeper world, Venter and Duncan expand our scope of what it means to be alive.
A ripping tale of how a sailing adventure and science can be combined to revolutionize our understanding of our bodies, the oceans, and the planet.
- 336 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
- Foreword by Erling Norrby
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