'Coral has, written within itself, life's origin and man's fate.' Weaving together a journey from Marseilles to Madras via the South Pacific and the author's own memories of his seafaring grandfather, CORAL will provide an inspired, eclectic narrative that links science with history, literature, and with our image of mankind. Coral has fascinated us throughout the ages: the Romans used coral as a hangover cure, in Italy it is believed to ward off the evil eye and even now it has been found to provide us with anti-cancer drugs. Telling the story of the earth's beginnings through its geology, coral also points us towards the future of the planet - a socially and biologically uncertain outcome. It was coral that first interested Darwin in evolution, being a classic example of symbiosis: a joint venture between animal and plant. Coral reefs occupy only one part in five hundred of the ocean's surface and yet they contain a quarter of its species.
Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London and the president of the Galton Institute. He delivered the BBC Reith Lectures in 1991, appears frequently on radio and television and is a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph. See www.ystevejones.com