Winner 2010The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Ten years in the making, 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' - a beautiful but harrowing work of non-fiction by Rebecca Skloot - has won the second Wellcome Trust Book Prize.
Taking readers on a journey of scientific discovery, the book tells the story of a poor Southern tobacco farmer whose cancer cells, taken without her knowledge, became one of the most important tools in medicine.
This debut work by Rebecca Skloot took a decade to chronicle and weaves together the Lacks family story from the first culturing of HeLa cells (as they became known) to the dark history of experimentation on African Americans and the birth of bioethics.
HeLa cells were vital for developing the polio vaccine and uncovering secrets of cancer, viruses and the effects of the atom bomb. They helped lead to important advances like in vitro fertilization, cloning and gene mapping, and have been bought and sold by the billions. Yet Henrietta herself remains virtually unknown, buried in an unmarked grave. Today, her family can't afford the heath-care advances that their mother’s cells helped to make possible.
Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust added: "It's wonderful that the prize has been awarded to a book that was such a labour of love for its author. Rebecca Skloot's work absolutely meets the objective of this prize. It has something of everything - a compelling science story, an emotional personal story and intriguing ethical dilemmas - and all woven together and written with great style. Congratulations!"