Science reading; Lacks, and the DarwinsI've read two great popular science books lately. The first, like much of the popular science I read, I first heard about on NPR. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot chronicles the life, death, and family aftermath of the woman whose cells contributed more to medical research since the 1950's than anyone else. Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman who died from cervical cancer in 1951. Her unusually persistent cancer cells were cultured after her death- without her family's permission- and became not only the most prolific cell line ever, but a multi-million dollar business. If you benefit from modern medicine, you probably have Henrietta Lacks to thank. The irony? Most of her descendants cannot afford the medication her cells helped to create.
The most recent book I have read, Charles and Emma; The Darwins Leap of Faith is a young adult book detailing the courtship and marriage of Charles and Emma Darwin, and how their differing views on faith intersected. While much is made of the effect developing his theory of natural selection had on Charles Darwin's belief system, a few things are rarely touched on; how the loss of his beloved daughter Annie and of two of his infants contributed to Charles leaving faith behind, and how he remained true to himself while respecting his religious wife, Emma. The fact that the Darwins were able to navigate this potential minefield while remaining deeply in love says to me that there is no reason we as a society should not be able to do so. This is a wonderful book for anyone who, like me, is fascinated by the intersection of science and faith.