Books by Frank Ryan

Released: Feb. 16, 2016

"An enlightening account of past and present knowledge and the future possibilities of human heredity."
The information revolution in silicon gets the headlines, but a revolution in genetics has been running in parallel and will soon affect our lives even more profoundly. Plenty of authors are paying attention, but British physician and researcher Ryan (Metamorphosis: Unmasking the Mystery of How Life Transforms, 2011, etc.) delivers an up-to-date history that will be definitive—at least for a few years.Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 16, 2002

"A rewarding scientific journey, connecting laboratory with living planet and scientist with society."
Physician and science writer Ryan (Virus X, 1997, etc.) forcefully argues that Charles Darwin overlooked the importance of interaction between and among life forms in his theory of evolution. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 3, 1997

From the author of The Forgotten Plague (1993), which sounded an alarm about the resurgence of tuberculosis, comes another dire warning, this time about the threat of new plagues from emerging viruses. Ryan, a member of both the Royal College of Physicians and the New York Academy of Medicine, painstakingly chronicles numerous outbreaks, including those of hantavirus in the American Southwest in 1993, Ebola virus in Sudan and Zaire in 1976 and in Reston, Va., in 1989, and, of course, HIV. In addition to recounting the grim details, he examines the circumstances under which these new, lethal viruses have emerged and proposes an intriguing explanation of what is going on. Ryan's theory is that viruses have co-evolved with their feral hosts, with which they have developed a symbiotic relationship. When a rival species, such as humankind, intrudes on the host's environment, the virus attacks the invader. Vast numbers of viruses exist in the rainforests of the world, as well as in the grasslands and the oceans, and as deforestation, agricultural intrusion, and coastal pollution continue, humans can expect to encounter them. As yet, no new virus has been both lethal and highly infectious; however, if one were to emerge that combined these two characteristics—as deadly, say, as HIV and as contagious as the common cold—the result could be a pandemic of catastrophic proportions. He urges increased international cooperation to reduce abuse of the environment, and he calls on governments and the medical profession to get ready now for the very real danger posed by a new viral pandemic. Detailed, Berton RouechÇstyle accounts of medical detection in support of a powerful doomsday warning. (8 pages b&w photos, not seen) (Radio satellite tour) Read full book review >
Released: June 23, 1993

A lively account of how scientists worked for years to tame tuberculosis—only to find the disease rebounding with increased virulence as drug-resistant strains developed and as the emergence of the AIDS virus triggered a surge in deadly TB infections. Ryan (a fellow of the UK's Royal Academy of Physicians), pays homage to the men of science who conquered TB, one of humanity's oldest plagues and a killer of a billion people during the past two centuries alone. He recounts at length and in detail the lives of those whose work led to the discovery of the drugs used to treat TB. We see RenÇ Dubos, for instance, searching diligently for antibiotics among soil microorganisms at N.Y.C.'s Rockefeller Institute while his young wife is dying of TB at a sanitorium miles away, and we watch Gerhard Domagk working doggedly on sulphonamides under horrendous conditions in war-torn Germany and then being forced by the Nazis to turn down the Nobel Prize. Ryan's style often is highly charged: Tuberculosis is ``the greatest killer in history''; scientific discoveries are greeted with ``incandescent excitement''; AIDS is a ``new phantasmagoria of terror.'' Meanwhile, personal tragedies and triumphs make up the first three-quarters of the book, but the real message lies in the finale: Although an entire generation in the West has grown up with little knowledge of, or experience with, TB, the disease is making a comeback, this time as a superbug, resistant to every drug. If action is not taken quickly, the results of the present epidemic will be, in Ryan's words, ``apocalyptic.'' Dramatic, sometimes even melodramatic, writing in the historical parts may heighten the book's appeal to some, but it lessens the credibility of the genuine alarm being sounded in the conclusion. (Twenty-four b&w photographs—not seen) Read full book review >