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When a bad translation leads to a Neanderthal clone

Within the scientific community, George Churches name has incited quite a stir as he has been named as the man to take on the bizarre mission of cloning the genome of the Neanderthal man, our ancestor, extinct over 30,000 years ago.

News gone viral

Within a few hours, some of the most well known websites retold the story, confirming that the Harvard University professor and geneticist wanted to clone the DNA of the Neanderthal man, extinct over 30,000 years ago. The Independent was the first paper to print the story, the headline being unlike any other. It was stated that a Harvard professor was looking for an adventurous woman to birth a baby Neanderthal. Naturally this created quite a buzz.

Misinformation due to a bad translation

Reactions to the news’ came very quickly; some people called the Harvard geneticist a mad scientist. Shorty afterwards the story was denied. Apparently, there was a translation error between the interview published in German by the German weekly paper Der Spiegel and its interpretation by the British newspaper The Independent.

In his interview, George Church only said that thanks to advances in the field of genetics, it was theoretically possible to clone DNA from Neanderthal man. One of the greatest genetic researchers denied its intention to seek a female carrier saying that his original words stated that a Neanderthal woman was required to deliver the Neanderthal fetus. The theory by Professor Church was therefore misinterpreted as a way of recruiting a willing female. It is safe to say that journalists, as well as translators have a role to play in ensuring that the correct information is allowed to print.

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