A lively and wide-ranging book about the accomplishments and aspirations of genetics and those who study it. Geneticist Bodmer, former president of the Human Genome Organization, teams up with British science writer McKie to produce a text that delivers considerably more than its subtitle suggests. Their history of genetics is rich in human interest: Intriguing subjects include the Kerr family of Scotland, famous for its left-handed swordsmen; the prevalence of hemophilia among the descendants of Queen Victoria; and the discovery of the genetic basis for Huntington's chorea, the disease that killed Woody Guthrie. The authors also provide portraits of Mendel, Crick and Watson, and many other less familiar scientists who have contributed to our knowledge of genetics. They detail the progress of genetic engineering in producing new medicines and the results to date of research into the heritability of schizophrenia and other illnesses. They also explore the application of genetic research to forensic science, such as the controversial ``DNA fingerprinting'' of criminal suspects, and to the tracing of prehistoric population movements by examining genetic evidence in the modern world. The book's only disappointing section, ironically, is Bodmer's account of his experiences with the Human Genome Organization, a nongovernmental group of scientists who aim to promote international collaboration in human genome research; Bodner dodges carefully around much of the political and scientific controversy that such research, including the US Human Genome Project, has inspired. The final chapter urges ``DNA literacy'' as the foundation for informed debate on the moral and ethical questions raised by many contemporary applications of genetics. Possibly the best popular treatment to date of the most glamorous and least understood of the biological sciences.