The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

NOTE: This blog entry first appeared in February 2010

by Geoffrey Redick, producer

I met Rebecca Skloot almost a year ago. It didn’t take long before she was telling me this incredible story about immortal cells growing in laboratories, the woman they came from, how she died, and the family members she left behind. She said it was all in a book she was writing, but she didn’t talk about Henrietta Lacks in a cold, repertorial way. It was clear from the first moment how energized she was by the story. And I knew right away that she had to talk to Bob.

Skloot spent more than 10 years on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. She interviewed dozens of medical researchers and relatives of Lacks, and the result is a fascinating and fast read — biography, medical ethics, racial politics — that pays homage to someone who unknowingly made one of the most important contributions to science, and who has largely been lost to history.

Skloot is also doing some good for the descendents of Henrietta Lacks, with a foundation that will provide college scholarships.