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“The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” author to speak at Pacific

Rebecca Skloot will discuss her acclaimed debut work about the poor black woman whose cells — taken without her knowledge — became one of the most important tools in medicine
Oct 22, 2013

Science writer and bestselling author Rebecca Skloot will speak at University of the Pacific at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, in Grace Covell Hall. The lecture is free and open to the public, with a book signing following the lecture.

Skloot will discuss her debut book, "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks," which took more than a decade to research and instantly became a New York Times best seller. It tells the rich, enthralling story of a poor Southern tobacco farmer, Henrietta Lacks, whom scientists know as HeLa.

In 1951, Lacks developed a strangely aggressive cancer, and doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital took a tissue sample without her knowledge. She died without knowing that her cells would become immortal—the first to grow and survive indefinitely in culture. The cells became one of the most important tools in medicine and are still alive today, though she has been dead for more than 60 years.

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 such as in vitro fertilization, cloning, and gene mapping; and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet, Henrietta Lacks remained virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave.

Doctors took her cells without asking.
Those cells never died.
They launched a medical revolution and a multimillion-dollar industry.
More than twenty years later, her children found out.
Their lives would never be the same.

Soon to be made into an HBO movie by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, this New York Times bestseller takes readers on an extraordinary journey, from the "colored" ward of Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s to stark white laboratories with freezers filled with HeLa cells, from Henrietta's small, dying hometown of Clover, Virginia, to East Baltimore today, where her children and grandchildren live and struggle with the legacy of her cells.

Hear about Skloot's riveting journey uncovering a story of scientific discovery and faith healing; of the collision between ethics, race and medicine; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew.

For more information about the event, contact Corrie Martin in the Women's Resource Center at cmartin1@pacific.edu or call 209.932.2815

This event is cosponsored by the Department of English with support from the Pacific Arts and Lectures Committee    

Rebecca SklootAbout Rebecca Skloot
Skloot's work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She is also a contributing editor at Popular Science magazine, and has worked as a correspondent for NPR's RadioLab and PBS's Nova ScienceNOW. She and her father, Floyd Skloot, are co-editors of The Best American Science Writing 2011. Learn more: RebeccaSkloot.com/The-Immortal-Life/ 


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