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Sean Carroll’s book wins 2007 Science Award from Phi Beta Kappa

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Record of Evolution by Sean B. Carroll, genetics, is the recipient of the 2007 Science Award. The $10,000 award is given annually by the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Carroll is a UW-Madison professor of molecular biology and genetics and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He will formally receive the award on in Washington, D.C.“I am very honored and flattered to join the list of authors that have won this award — a list that includes many scientists and writers who have inspired me and whom I have admired for many years,” Carroll said.

In The Making of the Fittest, Carroll argues that in the same way that we turn to DNA for proof in courts of law we can now turn to DNA for proof that evolution is a reality. The book is a treasure trove of completely new, must have information about how evolution actually works and why it matters, and how this remarkable process has shaped humans, the world we now inhabit and the marvelous creatures with whom we share it.

Every step in evolution, we now know, is recorded in DNA. Every change or new trait, from the gaudy colors of tropical birds to our color vision through which we admire nature’s artworks, is due to stepwise changes in DNA that we can now trace. Some steps are tiny, just a single change in one letter of a gene’s code. Others are more dramatic and involve the birth and death of many genes.

The most stunning aspect of the new DNA record of evolution is its richness and detail. And though it has resoundingly confirmed Darwin’s main principles, several major surprises have been revealed. These surprises are presented at length in The Making of the Fittest, for the first time in a book for a general audience.

“The Making of the Fittest has a consistency, readability, primers where needed, authenticity and added moments of levity and humor that are often missing in other accounts,” noted Patricia Morse, chair of the Phi Beta Kappa Science Award Committee. “Carroll’s mission to bring the current evidence and history and make the science accessible to the reader is extremely well done.”

Carroll is not only a prize winning author but is also the premier evolutionary biologist on this campus and one of the top evolutionary biologists in the US. Carroll’s major discoveries from his laboratory have been featured in TIME Magazine, US News & World Report,The New York Times, Discover, and Natural History. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and was named one of America’s most promising leaders under 40 by TIME. The Making of the Fittest was named top science book of the year by USA Today.

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest academic honor society. It has chapters at 276 institutions and more than half a million members throughout the country. Its mission is to champion education in the liberal arts and sciences, to recognize academic excellence, and to foster freedom of thought and expression. Among its programs are academic and literary awards, lectureships, a fellowship, a professorship, and publication of The American Scholar, an award-winning quarterly journal. For more www.pbk.org.

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