To display a broad swath of the people, scientific processes, and discoveries involved in biology, science writer Zimmer (Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain-and How It Changed the World) describes a common, luxuriantly growing, usually benign gut bacterium, Escherichia coli, or E. coli. Easily grown in petri dishes, the species has alter egos that can kill its hosts, making the organism a useful laboratory model to explore the basis of heredity. Zimmer recounts the ingenious experiments performed over the last century, garnering Nobel prizes for those scientists who outlined the textbook diagrams of the biochemical processes that all organisms on Earth share with E. coli. He effectively counters the proponents of intelligent design concepts by describing the work of evolutionary development scientists who have shown evolutionary processes occurring in E. coli within a very short time line. The scientists, their work, and the ethical questions with which they wrestle are sensitively profiled, and Zimmer employs imagery to great effect, leaving the reader with the sense of having attended a well-executed museum exhibit intended for intelligent adults. Recommended for public and academic libraries.