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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. by  Rebecca Skloot - Signed First Edition - 2010 - from Alembic Rare Books (SKU: 369)

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

by Skloot, Rebecca

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About This Item

New York: Crown Publishers, 2010. Octavo. Original red boards, titles to spine gilt. With the dust jacket. Illustrated title and chapter titles, 8 pages of illustrations from photographs. A fine copy in the jacket. First edition, first printing. A superb copy, signed and dated "3/29/10" by the author on the half title. In 1951 Henrietta Lacks, a 31-year-old African American woman, died of ovarian cancer at Johns Hopkins. Unbeknownst to herself or her family, doctors used her biopsy to culture a line of cells that revolutionised medicine. Previously, no human cell culture had survived for more than a few days in the laboratory, seriously limiting their usefulness to research. Lacks's cultures, however, survived for weeks, then months, and eventually decades, becoming essentially immortal. Dubbed "HeLa", they are now mass produced and have been used to study almost every major medical question of the last seventy years. HeLa cells have been key to the development of vaccines, including the Salk polio vaccine; to identifying and treating AIDS and other emerging diseases; to our understanding of cell biology, genetics, and ageing; and in the development of medications for a range of illnesses. But this scientific success has a darker side. There are serious concerns about how Lacks's race affected her medical care and the treatment of her family by the scientific community. Neither Lacks nor any of her relatives provided informed consent for her cells to be retained and studied, much less for them to become a multi-million dollar industry over which they have no control. And her descendants fear the privacy implications of their genome being made public. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks approaches the HeLa cells from this perspective, and is based on nearly a decade of personal interviews and archival research. Skloot focuses in particular on Lacks's daughter, Deborah, who spent years fighting for access to the full story of her mother's cells and to ensuring that her life and legacy would be honoured. The book also situates Lacks within the wider context of racism in medicine, and how Black women's bodies have frequently been co-opted for the benefit of white doctors and patients. Now considered a key work of popular science writing, it spent 75 weeks on the New York Times best seller list and received numerous awards, including the Wellcome Trust Book Prize and the National Academies Best Book of the Year Award.


Rebecca Skloot is an award-winning science writer whose work has appeared in  The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover;  and many others. She is coeditor of  The Best American Science Writing 2011  and has worked as a correspondent for NPR’s  Radiolab  and PBS’s Nova  ScienceNOW . She was named one of five surprising leaders of 2010 by the  Washington Post . Skloot's debut book,  The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, took more than a decade to research and write, and instantly became a  New York Times  bestseller. It was chosen as a best book of 2010 by more than sixty media outlets, including  Entertainment Weekly ,  People, and the New York Times .  It  is being translated into more than twenty-five languages, adapted into a young reader edition, and being made into an HBO film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball. Skloot is the founder and president of The Henrietta Lacks Foundation. She has a B.S. in biological sciences and an MFA in creative nonfiction. She has taught creative writing and science journalism at the University of Memphis, the University of Pittsburgh, and New York University. She lives in Chicago. For more information, visit her website at, where you’ll find links to follow her on Twitter and Facebook. 


On Mar 10 2011, AbbeyRheinhartt said:
This is a historically significant book that captures three important points: (1) the lack of ethics in medical research, particularly informed consent; (2) how this lack of medical consent affected a simple African-American family of relatively no sophistication; and (3)that the family of Henrietta Lacks cannot afford health insurance, notwithstanding the enormity of her contribution to science.During 1951, Henrietta Lacks went to Johns Hopkins with a "knot" in her cervix. The biopsy revealed cancer. Tissue was removed and cultured. The cancer was unique in that it continued to grow in a laboratory setting, and were named HeLa cells for their source, Henrietta Lacks. These particular cells were unique in that they do not observe the Hayflick limit, which is the usual lifetime of cancerous cells.These cells were used in the testing by Jonas Salk for his polio vaccine, and are used so regularly in the scientific community that it is estimated 300 scientific papers a month are written on the basis of research performed with HeLa cells. Neither Lacks nor her family gave the physician permission to harvest the cells. When the family, who was relatively unsophisticated, learned that "she was being kept alive," they were extremely concerned, and engaged counsel. They did not understand that it was her tumor only.

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Alembic Rare Books GB (GB)
Bookseller’s Inventory #
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.
Skloot, Rebecca
Book condition
Quantity available
Crown Publishers
Place of Publication
New York
Date Published
Science|DNA & Heredity|Molecular Biology|Medicine|Obstetrics & Gynaecology|Public Health|Biology|Women in Science|History & Philosophy of Science|Women's History|Popular Science|Diversity in Science

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Seller rating:
This seller has earned a 5 of 5 Stars rating from Biblio customers. member since 2018
Aberlour, Moray
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About Alembic Rare Books

We specialise in rare science books dating from the late Middle Ages to the 20th century, including first editions, signed copies, manuscripts, objects, and ephemera. We have particular expertise in natural history, genetics and evolution, anatomy, nuclear physics and the Manhattan Project, early computing, and women in science. We also carry books related to women's history and literature.


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A book in fine condition exhibits no flaws. A fine condition book closely approaches As New condition, but may lack the... [More]
The decorative application of gold or gold coloring to a portion of a book on the spine, edges of the text block, or an inlay in... [More]
First Edition
In book collecting, the first edition is the earliest published form of a book. A book may have more than one first edition in... [More]
Sometimes used as another term for dust jacket, a protective and often decorative wrapper, usually made of paper which wraps... [More]
The outer portion of a book which covers the actual binding. The spine usually faces outward when a book is placed on a shelf.... [More]
half title
The blank front page which appears just prior to the title page, and typically contains only the title of the book, although, at... [More]
Another of the terms referring to page or book size, octavo refers to a standard printer's sheet folded four times, producing... [More]

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