The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Front Cover
Macmillan, 2010 - African American women - 368 pages
3964 Reviews
THE INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells - taken without her knowledge - became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first 'immortal' human tissue grown in culture, HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer, viruses, and the effects of the atom bomb; helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Now Rebecca Skloot takes us on an extraordinary journey in search of Henrietta's story, from the 'coloured' ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live, and struggle with the legacy of her cells. Full of warmth and questing intelligence, astonishing in scope and impossible to put down, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks captures the beauty and drama of scientific discovery, as well as its human consequences.

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Jen_Bartels -

I was told this book was amazing by practically every person in the world it seemed like. So I started it...a year ago. I finally forced myself to finish it. I did find it a little hard to get into ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - piquant00 -

What a gripping, compelling story. A black American woman's early death caused by an unusually aggressive cancer, samples of which, when cultured, precipitate scientific and medical advancements that ... Read full review

All 122 reviews »

Other editions - View all

About the author (2010)

REBECCA SKLOOT is an award-winning science writer whose articles have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine, among others. She has worked as a correspondent for NPR's RadioLab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW, and blogs about science, life, and writing at Culture Dish, hosted by Seed magazine. She also teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Memphis. Visit her website at

Bibliographic information