A recent Columbus Dispatch article features a new book on the history of genetic research. Entitled “The Violinist’s Thumb,” it focuses on some of the lesser-known individuals who have contributed to the body of genetic research including early genetic theory, the discovery of the DNA helix, the effect of DNA mutations, and human genomics.
The “violinist’s thumb” of the title belonged to 19th-century Italian musician Niccolo Paganini, “the violin virtuoso’s violin virtuoso.”Paganini’s joints were so flexible that he could move his thumb across the back of his hand to join his pinky finger and “wriggle his midfinger joints laterally, like tiny metronomes.” Unfortunately, his flexibility was probably the result of a genetic disorder, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, whose victims can’t make much collagen and suffer symptoms such as muscle fatigue and translucent, easily damaged skin.
The history of DNA and paternity testing is an interesting topic that is not without interesting stories of scandal and controversy. Check out our Educational Resource Center’s History of DNA Testing page, which features an interactive timeline showcasing famous paternity cases from the 1890s to the present time.