This GUEST POST is written by Eric Green.
One of the joys of project trips is that I tend to read much more than I do back in New York. I am wrapping up a great visit to northern Uganda that included many hours of one-on-one time with my iPad. I actually found myself looking forward to today’s bus ride from Gulu to Kampala because I had several good selections at my fingertips.
On my reading list this trip was Tyler Cowen’s The Great Stagnation, The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee, and a fantastic book about medicine, science, ethics, and one family’s story about how they learned their deceased mother lives on.
Honestly, I can’t imagine a better tale. A detective story that’s at once mythically large and painfully intimate. Just the simple facts are hard to believe: that in 1951, a poor black woman named Henrietta Lacks dies of cervical cancer, but pieces of the tumor that killed her–taken without her knowledge or consent–live on, first in one lab, then in hundreds, then thousands, then in giant factories churning out polio vaccines, then aboard rocket ships launched into space. The cells from this one tumor would spawn a multi-billion dollar industry and become a foundation of modern science–leading to breakthroughs in gene mapping, cloning and fertility and helping to discover how viruses work and how cancer develops (among a million other things).
All of which is to say: the science end of this story is enough to blow one’s mind right out of one’s face.