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.
"Brilliant [...] medical magic [...] written with compassionate warmth and humour"
– Steven Poole, Daily Telegraph
"Wonderfully ambitious [...] Cell biology is complex and as big a topic as life itself; I'm not sure a writer could cover it better"
– The Times
"If you are not already in awe of biology, The Song of the Cell might get you there. It is a masterclass"
"One of the most admired doctors in the world [...] Brilliant"
– The Times
"Part mystery, part adventure story, The Song of the Cell is an irresistible foray into the frontiers of medical science [and] a reminder of the power of human ingenuity that is likely to leave readers both enlightened and hopeful."
– Jennifer Egan, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad
"Some of the writing in The Song of the Cell is so lovely that you can get caught up in its music"
– New York Times
"Audacious [...] mesmerizing [...] reliably engaging [...] Mukherjee enthusiastically instructs and [...] delights – all the while hustling us across a preposterously vast and intricate landscape"
– Wall Street Journal
"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
"For anyone who wants to understand the building blocks of their own bodies – which everyone surely should – this is an informative and entertaining introduction"
"An extraordinarily gifted storyteller [...] The author's ideas about the near future of medicine are both convincing and inspiring. This is another winner from Mukherjee."
– Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A lively, personal, detailed, often moving account of the cell in medical history and its promise in the present"
"A lively, thought-provoking book [...] Mukherjee comes across not only as a brilliant researcher but also as a deeply empathetic human being"
– Literary Review
"A masterclass in cell function that will leave you in awe of biology"
– Suzanne O'Sullivan, Guardian
"Vast, important [...] optimistic"
– Mail on Sunday
"A passionate, expert guide [...] Mukherjee's ambition has once again paid off, creating an encyclopaedic exploration of how we got to this point – and sketching out the questions we must ask about the future"
– Financial Times