The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human (Hardcover)
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From the author of The Emperor of All Maladies, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene, a #1 New York Times bestseller, comes his most spectacular book yet, an exploration of medicine and our radical new ability to manipulate cells. Rich with Mukherjee’s revelatory and exhilarating stories of scientists, doctors, and the patients whose lives may be saved by their work, The Song of the Cell is the third book in this extraordinary writer’s exploration of what it means to be human.
Mukherjee begins this magnificent story in the late 1600s, when a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek looked down their handmade microscopes. What they saw introduced a radical concept that swept through biology and medicine, touching virtually every aspect of the two sciences, and altering both forever. It was the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves—hearts, blood, brains—are built from these compartments. Hooke christened them “cells”.
The discovery of cells—and the reframing of the human body as a cellular ecosystem—announced the birth of a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulations of cells. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer’s dementia, AIDS, pneumonia, lung cancer, kidney failure, arthritis, COVID pneumonia—all could be reconceived as the results of cells, or systems of cells, functioning abnormally. And all could be perceived as loci of cellular therapies.
In The Song of the Cell, Mukherjee tells the story of how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. He seduces you with writing so vivid, lucid, and suspenseful that complex science becomes thrilling. Told in six parts, laced with Mukherjee’s own experience as a researcher, a doctor, and a prolific reader, The Song of the Cell is both panoramic and intimate—a masterpiece.
“This expansive, immersive book posits a new way forward in medicine thanks to the cell: new ways of treating patients, new medicines to create, new ways of healing, and new ways of understanding ourselves.” —Jaime Rochelle Herndon, Columbia Magazine
“In an account that’s both lyrical and capacious, Mukherjee takes us through an evolution of human understanding: from the seventeenth-century discovery that humans are made up of cells to our cutting-edge technologies for manipulating and deploying cells for therapeutic purposes.” —The New Yorker
"Erudite, panoramic… Mukherjee is an elegant stylist… [and] an assured and genial guide." —Hamilton Cain, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“If you are not already in awe of biology, The Song of the Cell might get you there. It is a masterclass.” —Suzanne O’Sullivan, The Guardian
“Audacious...mesmerizing…reliably engaging... Mukherjee enthusiastically instructs and... delights—all the while hustling us across a preposterously vast and intricate landscape.” —David A Shaywitz, The Wall Street Journal
“Mukherjee is a passionate, expert guide… He weaves together charming histories of scientists, his own, sometimes painful, memories of patients and friends lost to illness, and the complex science of what makes cells tick.” —Hannah Kuchler, The Financial Times
“For anyone who wants to understand the building blocks of their own bodies—which everyone surely should—this is an informative and entertaining introduction.” —The Economist
“Mukherjee has found an especially roomy subject for his roving intelligence. . . . I was repeatedly dazzled by [Mukherjee’s] pointillist scenes, the enthusiasm of his explanations, the immediacy of his metaphors.” —Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times
“Mukherjee is such an engaging writer, alert to nanoscopic beauty and the potential deceptions of metaphor. . . . [The Song of the Cell is] written with compassionate warmth and humor, and the personal glimpses into an ordinary scientific life and the dedication that goes with it.” —Steven Poole, The Telegraph
“The Song of the Cell blends cutting-edge research, impeccable scholarship, intrepid reporting, and gorgeous prose into an encyclopedic study that reads like a literary page-turner.” —Oprah Daily