Voltaire's Coffee: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, hosted by Dr. Janet Davis, professor of American Studies
Thu, August 30, 2012 • 7:00 PM • Little Green House (3010 Fruth Street) OR Joynes Reading Room
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, hosted by Dr. Janet Davis, professor of American Studies
Thursday, 30 August at 7pm, Little Green House (3010 Fruth Street) OR Joynes Reading Room
Henrietta Lacks was a 31-year-old black mother of five in Baltimore when she died of cervical cancer in 1951. Without her knowledge, doctors treating her at Johns Hopkins took tissue samples from her cervix for research. They spawned the first viable, indeed miraculously productive, cell line—known as HeLa. These cells have aided in medical discoveries from the polio vaccine to AIDS treatments. What Rebecca Skloot so poignantly portrays is the devastating impact Henrietta's death and the eventual importance of her cells had on her husband and children. Letting people and events speak for themselves, Skloot tells a rich, resonant tale of modern science, the wonders it can perform and how easily it can exploit society's most vulnerable people.
Professor Davis was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1964, three days after a devastating Alaskan earthquake triggered tsunami warnings across the Hawaiian Islands and beyond. She spent the majority of her childhood and young adulthood in the Upper Midwest—with intermediate stops on study abroad programs in Germany and India. From 1986-1989, Professor Davis worked as a flight attendant for Northwest Airlines. She finished her Ph.D. in U.S. History in 1998 and landed at the University of Texas that fall. She is currently writing a book, The Gospel of Kindness: Animal Welfare and the Making of Modern America and teaches Introduction to American Studies, both halves of Main Currents in American Culture, and specialized seminars in U.S. social and cultural history; popular culture; animal studies; women’s and gender history; cultural approaches to U.S. foreign relations; and U.S. social movements. Professor Davis has won the President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2004), as well as the Eyes of Texas Excellence Award (2000).