The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

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Pan Books, 2011 - Biography & Autobiography - 431 pages
3963 Reviews
Her name was Henrietta Lacks, but scientists know her as HeLa. She was a poor Southern tobacco farmer, yet her cells--taken without her knowledge--became one of the most important tools in medicine. The first "immortal" human cells grown in culture, they are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than sixty years. HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine; uncovered secrets of cancer and viruses; helped lead to in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta Lacks is buried in an unmarked grave. Her family did not learn of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, when scientists began using her husband and children in research without informed consent. The story of the Lacks family is inextricably connected to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans, the birth of bioethics, and the legal battles over whether we control the stuff we are made of. --> From publisher description.

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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

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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

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About the author (2011)

Rebeca 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.

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