Ken Burns Presents the Gene: An Intimate History

Siddhartha Mukherjee

What happens when a world-famous filmmaker reads a book written by leading physician, biologist, oncologist, and author and then decides to use the book as the basis for a 4-hour PBS special broadcast about genetics? The result is a documentary called The Gene: An Intimate History.

And, yes, quite a bit of this documentary will discuss the things that people inherit from their ancestors.

Ken Burns Presents the Gene: An Intimate History will be broadcast on April 7 and 14 on PBS. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., and acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns have collaborated on the new documentary inspired by Mukherjee’s best-selling 2016 book, The Gene: An Intimate History.

Quoting from the show’s web site at

Ken Burns

The Gene: An Intimate History” is a major new four-hour documentary from Ken Burns and Barak Goodman, adapted from the award-winning book of the same name by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. The series tells the story of the rapid evolution of genetic science from Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking experiment in the 19th century to CRISPR, and the hope that newfound powers to alter DNA with pinpoint precision will transform the treatment of some of the world’s most complex and challenging diseases. The series also tackles the daunting ethical challenges that these technologies pose for humankind.

Everybody is talking about genes. Your body is filled with them. You look the way you do because of them. But do you really know what a gene is? This animated series won’t get you a PhD, but it does clear up a few mysteries about how genes work, how they make us, if we can change them and what they might look like in the future. (Microscope not required.)

I know where I will be on April 7: watching this documentary. For insurance, I will also have the DVR programmed to record the show so that I may watch it again later to find anything I may have missed during the premiere broadcast.

If you would like to watch Ken Burns Presents the Gene: An Intimate History, check your local television listings for the time and channel near you.

Also. check out this “trailer” video:


I purchased Mukherjee’s book The Gene, An Intimate History a couple of years ago. It’s a fantastic book! I heard some time ago they were working on a PBS special based on the book. Thanks for letting me know it’s finally airing. I won’t miss it either!


I have read Dr. Mukherjee’s books The Emperor of Maladies and The Gene: An Intimate History. He is a superb writer, and I look forward to this series.


Have always loved Ken Burns’ series. I will certainly watch this as well. The first one I saw was the Civil War story. My late great-grandfather served in the Union Army and actually lived in Walpole, NH, (he was bom in VT) where at one time Burns lived as well. That connection has been well rewarded with his excellent filmmaking over the years.


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