The Song of the Cell is the vivid, thrilling and suspenseful story of the fundamental unit of life. It describes how scientists discovered cells, began to understand them, and are now using that knowledge to create new humans. Both panoramic and intimate, it is Siddhartha Mukherjee's most spectacular book yet.
In the late 1600s, a distinguished English polymath, Robert Hooke, and an eccentric Dutch cloth-merchant, Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, look down their hand-made microscopes. What they see introduces a radical concept that alters both biology and medicine forever. It is the fact that complex living organisms are assemblages of tiny, self-contained, self-regulating units. Our organs, our physiology, our selves, are built from these compartments. Hooke christens them 'cells'.
The discovery of cells announced the birth of a new kind of medicine. A hip fracture, a cardiac arrest, Alzheimer's, AIDS, lung cancer – all could be re-conceived as the results of cells, or a cellular ecosystem, functioning abnormally. And all could be treated by therapeutic manipulations of cells. This revolution in cell biology is still in progress: it represents one of the most significant advances in science and medicine.
Rich with 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.
Siddhartha Mukherjee is the author of The Gene: An Intimate History, a #1 New York Times bestseller, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in general nonfiction, and The Laws of Medicine. He is the editor of Best Science Writing 2013. Mukherjee is an Associate professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician and researcher. A Rhodes scholar, he graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in many journals, including Nature, The New England Journal of Medicine, Cell, The New York Times and The New Yorker. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.
"Mukherjee's coverage of early efforts at bone marrow transplantation is heart-tugging. A discussion of stem cells is first-rate [...] In all, this is a distinctive ode to cells – their structure and function, commonalities, diversities, interconnectedness, and limitless possibilities – infused with a sense of wonder and humanity."
"Mukherjee, a physician, professor of medicine, and Pulitzer Prize–winning author (The Emperor of All Maladies), has a knack for explaining difficult ideas in terms that are both straightforward and interesting [...] A luminous journey into cellular biology [...] Another outstanding addition to the author's oeuvre, which we hope will continue to grow for years to come."
– Kirkus, starred review
"In Siddhartha Mukherjee's exciting and scholarly new book, he is a portraitist of cells, illuminating their structure and function, how they know to become part of organs like the heart or a brain, how they reproduce, how they become corrupt causing disease, and how modern medicine has learned to understand and manipulate them to cure and to heal. Deeply researched, The Song of the Cell is an extraordinary journey through the history of discovery to the most innovative cellular medicine practiced today and the promise of what lies ahead."
– Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate Physiology or Medicine 2001, Director of the Francis Crick Institute, London.
"Part mystery, part adventure story, The Song of the Cell is an irresistible foray into the frontiers of medical science. Animated by Siddhartha Mukherjee's lively, lucid prose, this volume is a reminder of the power of human ingenuity, and likely to leave readers both enlightened and hopeful."
– Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer Prize winner A Visit from the Goon Squad and the New York Times bestseller The Candy House