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Scholars have long believed that the first Americans arrived via land bridge some 13,000 years ago, when receding glaciers created an inland corridor from Siberia. Jennifer Raff, an anthropological geneticist at the University of Kansas, tells a different story in “Origin.” According to Raff, the path to America was along the coast rather than inland, and what we thought of as a bridge was a homeland that had been inhabited for millennia. Raff talks about the book in this week’s podcast.
“In recent years, the ability to obtain complete genomes from ancient ancestors has given us truly extraordinary new insights into the history of not only individuals and populations, but also our ancestors worldwide,” Raff said. “We can now identify the populations that originally produced the ancestors of Native Americans. And we can identify extremely important evolutionary events in that process that go back to about 26,000 years ago. So we can use genetics to identify biological histories, to make biological histories.” characterize and even identify populations that we had no idea existed based on archeology alone.”
Ira Rutkow visits the podcast to talk about “Empire of the Scalpel: The History of Surgery.” Rutkow says the idea for the book developed over 50 years and that he wrote it for the general public and surgeons alike.
“Over the course of my surgical practice, I was baffled at how little patients understood the why and why of what a surgeon did, or how a surgeon becomes a surgeon,” he says. And he was “shocked” when he would ask colleagues historical questions – “When did the anesthesia come about? When did Lister discover antisepsis?” – and “they wouldn’t have a clue.”
Also in this week’s episode, Alexandra Alter has some news from the publishing industry, and Elisabeth Egan and John Williams talk about what they’ve read. Pamela Paul is the host.
Here are the books discussed in this week’s “What We Read”:
We’d love to hear what you think about this episode, and about the Book Review podcast in general. You can send them to books.†