, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 657–663 | Cite as

Genre trouble

Sophia Roosth, Synthetic: How Life Got Made, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2017, US$35.00, ISBN: 78-0226440460
  • Anthony Stavrianakis
Books Forum
“Life is not what it used to be.” A harried list then qualifies and exemplifies the first sentence of Sophia Roosth’s Synthetic: How Life Got Made:

Living things bearing genomes pared down, streamlined, or cobbled together from bits of synthesized DNA now scurry, swim, and flourish in test tubes and glass bioreactors: viruses named for computer software, bacteria encoding passages of James Joyce, chimeric yeast buckling under the metabolic strain of genes harvested from sweet wormwood, petunias, and microbes from Icelandic thermal pools (p. 1).

To the degree that Syntheticis “a story about how [life] got that way” (p. 1) the book in fact sidesteps a descriptive account of the development of her purported object: a domain of bioengineering which branded itself as “synthetic biology” in the years 2005–2017. The basic aim of the brand has been to standardize genetic components, “biological parts,” in such a way as to increase capacities of biologists to rationally engineer new biological...


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre National de la Recherche ScientifiqueParisFrance

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