Preface

The twentieth century has been called "the genetic century," and rightly so: The genetic revolution began with the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's work in 1900, Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of DNA in 1953, and the first draft of the human genome sequence was announced in February 2001. As dramatic and important as these advances are, however, they will almost certainly pale when compared to those still awaiting us. Building on foundations laid over the last one hundred years, the twenty-first century will likely see discoveries that profoundly affect our understanding of our genetic nature, and greatly increase our ability to manipulate genes to shape ourselves and our environment. As more is learned, the pace of discovery will only increase, revealing not only the identities of increasing numbers of genes, but more importantly, how they function, interact, and, in some cases, cause disease.

As the importance of genetics in our daily lives has grown, so too has the importance of its place in the modern science classroom: In the study of biology, genetics has become the central science. Our purpose in creating this encyclopedia is to provide students and teachers the most comprehensive and accessible reference available for understanding this rapidly changing field.

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