"HOW LONG does it take for the bones of a 6-month-old child to dissolve?"
With a voice periodically quavering with emotion, geneticist Mary-Claire King, PhD, recalled the grisly question posed to her one day in 1984. She replied that bones don't dissolve. "Tears came to his eyes, and he said, 'Then Matilda is still alive,'" King said in a speech in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The man's question was less a scientific query than an emotional plea. He wanted to know why a grave containing the remains of his daughter, son-in-law, and two of their children lacked any evidence of Matilda but for her pajamas.
Nevertheless, science is providing some solace to him and many other bereft grandparents in his troubled nation. King and a team of fellow geneticists and molecular biologists have been helping a group of