I am reading a delightful memoir by Joseph Amolo Aluoch MD, in which he flattens me with his clever mastery of the English language.

His choice of words is both imaginable and unique.  

This famous chest specialist is a man of mirth and has obviously enjoyed his life to the fullest. In his `In the Footsteps of my Father’ (sounds familiar?), he describes his encounter with caning whilst in school saying `..One had to lie down quickly, the better to allow the perpendicular and unimpeded descent of the cane!’ He tells us of his father’s disdain for `all those who slackened in their labours in tendering the fountain of knowledge’. He shares an early lesson he picked in his youth as: `mere progress without purpose is meaningless. It may take you far – but in the wring direction’. Can you beat that?

But it’s his first chapter that he is at his best.

The chapter is named `Roots’ and is introduced by the anonymous quote `Phylogeny recapitulates ontogeny’.

In just 13 pages he skillfully narrates his ancestry within Gem Ka’ Gilo, where The Good Lord chose as locale for his entry to this planet. But unlike many, he is able to reflect on his people within the wider framework of the JoLuo of Kenya and in perspective of the larger migration of the Western Nilotic group down the Nile.

It is a read that is a must. 

Elisha Omukhayo Wandera now informs me that “Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” is a catchy phrase coined by Ernst Haeckel, a 19th century German biologist and philosopher to mean that the development of an organism (ontogeny) expresses all the intermediate forms of its ancestors throughout evolution (phylogeny).   His theory was later proved wrong, but the catch phrase remains.

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