The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks - Review


The Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksHenrietta Lacks is famous but few people know her name. Her scientific contribution has lead to the creation of a polio vaccine,  vast cancer research,  and has been cloned numerous times. This African American woman helped to change the face of modern science. But she is famous by another name: HeLa. In the 1950's scientists were desperately trying to control the growth of human cells in a laboratory  None were successful until a sample of cancer cells were removed from Henrietta. She was a patient at Johns Hopkins and underwent treatment for cervical cancer. But while her body rest in peace over sixty years ago, her cells live on today. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the extraordinary story of the HeLa cell line and the person from where it originated. Author, Rebecca Skloot, does an amazing job capturing the story behind the science with intimate details from the Lacks family. The story of Henrietta is told in first person. Skloot uses her experience as a researcher as a central part of the story. She alternates between the historical life and times of the Lacks family and her own experience as a historical reporter. The story is very personal and full of intimate moments. The full weight of the Lacks story places a constant tension on the scientific breakthroughs surrounding the HeLa cell line. 

I would recommend reading this book. The interesting mix of scientific and American history are fascinating. Rebecca Skloot does an amazing job capturing the human emotion that surrounds the conflicted success of HeLa. The story ends a little flat but it is consistently honest and transparent. Science and history lovers will thoroughly enjoy this read.

Brent Colby1 Comment