The Compatibility Gene

The Compatibility Gene


Short-listed for the Society of Biology Book Award 2014
Long-listed for the Royal Society Winton prize for science books 2014

In The Compatibility Gene, leading scientist Daniel M Davis tells the story of the crucial genes that define our relationships, our health and our individuality.

We each possess a similar set of around 25,000 human genes. Yet a tiny, distinctive cluster of these genes plays a disproportionately large part in how our bodies work. These few genes, argues Davis, hold the key to who we are as individuals and our relationship to the world: how we combat disease, how our brains are wired, how attractive we are, even how likely we are to reproduce.

The Compatibility Gene follows the remarkable history of these genes' discovery. From the British scientific pioneers who struggled to understand the mysteries of transplants to the Swiss zoologist who devised a new method of assessing potential couples' compatibility based on the smell of worn T-shirts, Davis traces a true scientific revolution in our understanding of the human body: a global adventure spanning some sixty years.

'Unusual results, astonishing implications and ethical dilemmas' The Times

'Packed with an insider's knowledge' New York Times

'He makes immunology as fascinating to popular science readers as cosmology, consciousness, and evolution' Steven Pinker

'An elegantly written, unexpectedly gripping account' Bill Bryson Guardian, Books of the Year

Daniel M Davis is director of research at the University of Manchester's Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research and a visiting professor at Imperial College, London. He has published over 100 academic articles, including papers in Nature and Science, and Scientific American. He has won the Oxford University Press Science Writing Prize and given numerous interviews for national and international media. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2011.


  • Who am I? What makes me different from everyone else? Daniel Davis recounts the remarkable science that has answered one version of these questions
    Steven Pinker

About the author

Daniel M Davis

Daniel M. Davis is Head of Life Sciences and Professor of Immunology at Imperial College London. His previous books include The Beautiful Cure: The New Science of Human Health, which was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2018, and The Secret Body: How the New Science of the Human Body Is Changing the Way We Live, which was described variously as 'an inspiration' by Tim Spector, 'beautifully rendered' by Brian Cox and 'masterful' by Alice Roberts. Davis's research, using super-resolution microscopy to study immune cell biology, was listed in Discover magazine as one of the Top 100 breakthroughs of the year. He has published over 150 academic research papers, including articles in Nature, Science, New Scientist and Scientific American.
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