Emory Report
March 2, 2009
Volume 61, Number 22



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March 2
, 2009
Chemist takes on evolution in book

By Carol Clark

Fredric Menger’s book, “The Thin Bone Vault: The Origin of Human Intelligence,” will be published in March by Imperial College Press. The book is primarily about evolution, says Menger, the Charles Howard Candler Professor of Organic Chemistry. He read more than 50 books on evolution from a variety of perspectives to research the book.

The central question he explores in the book is: Why are humans so smart? In non-technical language, Menger investigates the origins of human intelligence, starting with the classical Darwinian concepts. He concludes with a speculative epigenetic theory of intelligence that does not require DNA mutations as a source of evolution.

What’s a chemist doing writing about evolution? “I’ve always been interested in nature and natural history, so maybe my interest in evolution comes from that,” Menger says. The book title was inspired by a line from a poem by Robinson Jeffers: “Here is the skull of a man: a man’s thoughts and emotions have moved under the thin bone vault like clouds under the blue one …”