'Mutants' is a book about how the body develops and grows from a single cell to an adult and then declines into old age.
What does the new molecular genetics tell us about the human condition? How is a limb formed? Why do we have five fingers (and not six)? What controls the size to which we grow? Why do we age? More than this, however, it is a brilliant narrative history of what happens when things go wrong.
This book tells, rather like a biological version of 'The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat', the stories of particularly historically important and bizarre cases: of a French convent girl of the last century who found herself changing sex upon puberty and her miserable fate in the gutters of Paris; of children, invariably stillborn, who have cylopia (one eye located beneath their nasal cavity); of a tribe of pygmies in the Andaman Islands and a village of Ecuadorian dwarves; of a remarkably hairy family who were kept at the Burmese Royal Court for four generations (and from whom Darwin took one of his keenest insights into heredity), and so on.
From each important lessons are drawn that illustrate over and over again the amazing nature of cellular growth and how it works.