Part 2 of Ken Burn’s “The Gene” broadcast tonight

The tweet below came from Matthew, who may in fact be featured in this documentary. This tells us that Part 2 (the last part) of Ken Burns’s documentary “The Gene: An Intimate History” will be broadcast on PBS tonight. And it will probably be available for free on the show’s website for at least a short while. The broadcast is at 8 p.m. Eastern time, 7 p.m. Central; for other times, consult your local PBS station.

This part is called “Revolution in the Treatment of Disease,” and so will be more medically than historically oriented.  The summary is indented:

Part Two begins with the story of the signature scientific achievement of our time: the mapping of the human genome. As scientists learn to read the genetic code, they grapple with the dangers inherent in increasingly sophisticated and easily available methods of intervening in the very essence of what makes us human, our DNA.

Well, one could quibble that our DNA is “the very essence of what makes us human.” I’d say that the morphology, physiology, and behavior coded for by our DNA is what makes us human. But arguments about “the essence of what makes us human” are always futile.

Part 1 is still free online (here), and it was pretty good.  Part 2 will certainly be worth watching, especially if you’d like to know what genetics can do for human welfare (and not through stuff like creating transgenic animals or plants).


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, I just hit the dvr 7pm to 9 pm. – The Gene An Intimate History

  2. Posted April 14, 2020 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I will definitely watch it. For part I, the part that moved me the most was the “We need a mouse!” bit.
    I needed a hanky, I don’t mind saying.

  3. John Conoboy
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Looking forward to seeing this, but will have to wait until I finish the first episode. For anyone with a Roku or similar device or a TV that lets you stream, it is worth signing up for the PBS Passport. You do have to be a member of a PBS station, which means you have to donate to them but then you can watch most shows at any time that is convenient.

  4. Posted April 14, 2020 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, the documentary is not available in our neck of the woods – the southern tip of the dark continent.

  5. Marilyn
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    FYI: if you live in Chicago, the program runs from 8pm -10pm because Chicago Tonight is on from 7pm -8pm

  6. merilee
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 3:24 pm | Permalink


  7. Posted April 14, 2020 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    I was a bit distressed at the first third of the first episode (all I have watched so far). They kept making mistakes in who was credited with who:
    (1) No, Thomas Hunt Morgan was not the first to discover linkage (it was Bateson, Saunders and Punnett in 1905),
    (2) No Morgan was not the first to figure out that genes were on chromosomes (Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri in 1902), and
    (3) No, linkage does not mean that Curly wings always go along with Brown eyes in Drosophila.
    I hope they did a little better later.

  8. rickflick
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    The first installment can be viewed on the PBS web site. The second will become available there at some point after it is broadcast.

  9. Tom B
    Posted April 14, 2020 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    I thought it was OK. They played up the SMA drama a bit too much for me given that the treatment has been available for years. There is a more severe form than the one they labeled the “most severe” (Type 0) so they also need to get their facts correct.
    Dr. He and the ethical discussions got short changed by comparison. If you aren’t going to make the science the focal point, why not take a deep dive into why there is an ethical controversy? Describe why Dr. He’s work was such a hatchet job. There is a lot there to dig into (needing to specify “wild type human” should at least give pause) that is more informative and interesting than SMA.

  10. Posted April 14, 2020 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

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