Cover image for Adam's curse : a future without men
Adam's curse : a future without men
Sykes, Bryan.
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Norton & Co., [2004]

Physical Description:
x, 318 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
Includes index.

Originally published: London : Bantam Press, 2003.
The original Mr Sykes -- The lonely chromosome -- Ribbons of life -- The last embrace -- Sex and the single chromosome -- How to make a man -- Sex tips from fish -- Why bother with sex? -- The ideal republic -- The sense of sex -- The separation of the sexes -- A war on two fronts -- A rage to persuade -- Men of the world -- Blood of the Vikings -- The Y-chromosome of Somhairle Mor -- The great Khan -- The old school register -- The eleven daughters of Tracy Lewis -- The slaughter of the innocents -- The rise of the tyrant -- The sperm of Tara -- The gay gene revisited -- Gaia's revenge -- Lifting the curse.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
QH600.5 .S98 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



Male reproductive fragility has been the subject of much highly publicized recent research. Is it possible, asked the New York Times, that men face extinction? Bryan Sykes examines the validity of these shocking reports, focusing on the defining characteristic of men: the Y chromosome in their DNA. Guiding his readers through chapters like "The Blood of Vikings" and "Ribbons of Life," Sykes masterfully blends natural history with scientific fact, elucidating the biology of sexual reproduction, modern genetics, and evolutionary biology. He reveals that, while the Y chromosome makes man's existence possible, it also carries within it the seeds of his destruction. Timely and fascinating, this major work covers a wealth of controversial topics, including whether there is a genetic cause for male greed, aggression, and promiscuity; the possible existence of a male homosexual gene; and what, if anything, can be done to save men from a slow, but certain, extinction.

Author Notes

Bryan Sykes is professor of genetics at the Institute of Molecular Medicine at Oxford University & was the editor of "The Human Inheritance: Genes, Language, & Evolution".

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Well-known Oxford geneticist Sykes (The Seven Daughters of Eve), in this lively and thought-provoking book, gives a genetic twist to the battle between the sexes. All human existence, he says, stems from the battle between the X and Y chromosomes to further their own reproduction at the expense of the other. The Y chromosome is passed on only by fathers, while mitochondrial DNA is passed on only by mothers. Sykes shows that many members of several Scottish clans (most notably the Macdonalds) can be traced via their Y chromosomes back to a common ancestor. Researchers have also been able to trace the extent of Viking settlement and intermarriage in the British Isles and northern Europe through Y chromosome distribution. Sykes's argument for a genetic role in homosexuality will undoubtedly be controversial. Using Dean Hamer's pedigrees, he claims that evidence points less to a "gay gene" than to mitochondrial DNA playing the leading role in a Machiavellian plot to further its own reproduction. Sykes concludes by noting that, as evidenced by declining sperm counts and high percentages of abnormal sperm, among other variables, the Y chromosome is a genetic mess and is deteriorating so quickly that men could become extinct. Those who find that a happy thought will want to snap up this book, as well as readers interested in learning what our chromosomes tell us about where we came from and where we may be headed. 6 illus. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

In this one book there is a detailed description of how human chromosomes are prepared for microscopic study; an imagined view of human social development, described from the viewpoint of the planet; an analysis of the number of male children born to residents of a harem; and much, much more. The subject of this book is the Y chromosome, the smallest one, responsible for male development. This audiobook is a conglomeration of interesting facts, fanciful theories, and sometimes elegant intellectual meanderings. It is well written, verbose, repetitive, factual, highly speculative, occasionally in error, and, all in all, very interesting. The author's previous book (The Seven Daughters of Eve) on female-transmitted mitochondrial DNA was a best seller. Christopher Kay reads what must be largely unfamiliar and difficult vocabulary with very few errors and a charming inflection. Entertaining and informative popular science titles are relatively rare; this one is recommended for all moderate to large public and academic libraries.-I. Pour-El, Des Moines Area Community Coll., Boone, IA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

That disaster lurks for humanity runs through numerous thoughts and writings during the past few decades. Here is something surpassing terrorism, global warming, nuclear holocaust, and all the rest: No more male progeny for humankind! No, not this year or the next, or even during the next century, but say 125,000 years hence, the Y chromosome (the hallmark of male humans) will have disappeared completely. If this seems unbelievable, just read this absolutely fascinating, solidly science-grounded, utterly readable book where much biology and genetics can be learned as well as the range and variety of sexual reproduction, the advantage of and dispensable nature of having two sexes, and more. On average, a chromosome may contain a thousand different genes; the Y chromosome has but a few hundred left, having lost many over time, and is destined to vanish--so argues Sykes, who has studied many cultures in relation to their chromosomes, and notes that many unpleasant characteristics (such as aggression, greed, and promiscuity) arise from the Y, i.e., are essentially male features. If it were not for the fact that the predicted extinction of man (not woman) is a very distant event, this would be very dismal and unwelcome news. One of the most enjoyable science books available. ^BSumming Up: Very highly recommended. All levels. V. V. Raman emeritus, Rochester Institute of Technology