Review: The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M. Davis

The compatibility gene is Professor Davis’ first foray into scientific publishing for the general audience. Having a pretty good resume focused around immunology, you know that this book is going to be a good’un. The story starts from the early days of immunology as a subject, introducing the “holy trinity” of Billingham, Brent, and Medawar, and their work on transplantation which led to a Nobel Prize (for Medawar and Brent only, interestingly). Immunology is an all encompassing subject which affects pretty much everything in our bodies, so the thing I really liked about this book is how Davis manages to touch on so much of this with just the right amount of detail, and leaves the reader without feeling short changed of information.

Burnet Screen Shot 2013-10-06 at 14.42.37 Peter_Brian_Medawar

The Holy Trinity; Brent, Billingham and Medawar – intelligent chaps indeed.

As an aspiring immunologist, this book provides an excellent history of a constantly revolving subject. The thing which surprised me is how recent all the tales were, often meaning Davis had had personal encounters with the person in question which provides a really unique and personal touch. Another thing I found Davis did really well was incorporating his own research without it feeling like an advertisement for himself or his lab; it just feels relevant. The information is presented in a humbling manor, despite the fact some of his research has been extremely important to the immunology community. This also gives his opinions a certain punch, with the feeling like the words are really from someone in the know!

Overall, I would highly recommend The Compatibility Gene to anyone with an interest in science and biology, particularly immunology. I feel it is an especially useful read for someone at the beginning of a career in science, although I imagine that there is also new information for someone well established. An excellent, motivating read.

Buy now!

(Featured image credit of lovely Prof. Davis from

Written by Livvi Harris

Livvi Harris

I am a first year PhD Wellcome Trust PhD student at the Cambridge Stem Cell Institute currently carrying out a year of rotations, so I can’t quite tell you what my PhD is in yet! I am an ex-pharmacologist (or maybe current?!) from the University of Bath, with 15 months experience of industry after working for the oncology pharmacology team at MedImmune in Cambridge for my placement year.

2 thoughts on “Review: The Compatibility Gene by Daniel M. Davis

  1. I really enjoyed the book too! And my favourite sentence from the book has to be:

    “Nothing can be more exciting than what is happening at the edge of knowledge” page 160 edition Allen Lane.

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