Embryos Under the Microscope

The Diverging Meaning of Life



Jane Maienschein


Harvard University Press, 2014


ISBN: 978-0-674-72555-3


I like to think about this book as “holistic”, meaning that it covers the various angles that you would expect from a discussion on development, embryos and stem cells. There is some history, some cell biology, some ethics and some policy in this book, giving the reader a very good (albeit somewhat superficial) idea of what embryos are and how to think about them. To be fair, the author does reference a large number of other works that provide more details on any number of issues, so if you are up to the task, you can research those on your own. Even though the book does not delve too deeply into the biology of embryos (which I rather missed), it does do an excellent job of introducing embryos, development and stem cells to the naïve reader. One thing I can guarantee: you will definitely dispel many misconceptions you might have on embryos and you will be left with many provocative questions about what it means to “develop” from an egg cell to a human. Although the author clearly has strong views and opinions (which some readers might find chafing) there are plenty of open questions that will leave you thinking long after you put this book back on the bookshelf.