The Second Tree

Of Clones, Chimeras and Quests for Immortality

Publisher: Vintage Canada
The Second Tree documents a biological revolution that will change the way you think about the material world, your own life and even the inevitability of your own death

Genetic scientists are busily pushing back the boundaries of the humanly possible, climbing the branches of a tree of life that has been grafted by man, not God. Elaine Dewar chronicles the lives, the discoveries, and the feuds among modern biologists, exploring how they have crafted the tools to alter human evolution. She travels the globe on the trail of Charles Darwin and his intellectual descendants, telling the story of James D. Watson and his partner Francis Crick, who first described DNA; of Frederick Sanger, who invented how to sequence genes and won two Nobel prizes; of the computer scientists who put the human genome on the World Wide Web. She visits companies that are trying to turn cloned sheep into pharmacies on the hoof, to resurrect prize cows from the grave, to transplant human genes into mice — ultimately attempting to give us immortality in pieces while trying to keep investors happy. As these tales spill out, we find out how biologists learn by doing: tearing mice and worms and flies and human eggs apart, twinning disparate animal cells and genes together — creating clones and chimeras as outlandish as any sphinx.

In public, research biologists often express their good intentions about curing the big diseases. In private, many of them are compelled by furious struggles to be rich, famous and first. Dewar lays bare the motives, conflicts and fears of the men and women whose job it is to trespass the boundaries of what laypeople consider ethical and sacred.

From the Hardcover edition.


. . . the Lord God formed man from the dust of the earth. He blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.

The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom He had formed. And from the ground, the Lord God caused to grow every tree that was pleasing to...
Read More


"The Second Tree,…is a disturbing book and a challenging read, both technically and emotionally , but it is one that should be on everyone’s list this fall…. We can only hope an Elaine Dewar will always be on the sidelines, ready to guide us into the maze."
The Gazette (Montreal)

"An exploration of biology’s recent encounters with the tree of life that is alternately funny, terrifying and filled with wonder."
Ottawa Citizen

"…Dewar both entertains and clearly explains complex both scientific concepts and the associated ethical and moral dilemmas. Anyone who labours under the false impression that science is a noble but dull enterprise largely untainted by human failings and vices should read The Second Tree."
Winnipeg Free Press

"…this is a useful book. Dewar is a clear and sometimes elegant writer. She gets the science right….And she ends up with the completely correct conclusion that modern biology ‘is a courageous leap into the frightening dark with no god or angel to catch the fall.’"
The Toronto Star

"An exploration of biology’s recent encounters with the tree of life, it’s alternately funny, terrifying and filled with wonder….an important book about tough issues — a scary, miraculous story unfolding like murky clouds behind the tree of life."
The Vancouver Sun

Praise for Bones:

"Bones is a compelling book. Dewar takes us through the twists and turns of the scientific part of the story and makes it as accessible as a good whodunit. That’s no mean feat given the complexities of her subject."
The StarPhoenix (Saskatoon)

From the Hardcover edition.