The Song of the Cell: An Exploration of Medicine and the New Human (Allen Lane, Rs 799), the latest by oncologist Dr Siddhartha Mukherjee, winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, will be released October 25. This work is an in-depth exploration of the discovery of the cell, the most fundamental unit of life, informed by Mukherjee’s experience as a researcher and writer. “Life at the cellular level is complex, mysterious, and subtle,” says Mukherjee. He adds, “I wanted to explore the intricacy of the many relationships between a single cell and the larger colonies which make up all living things.”
Announcing the book, Meru Gokhale, publisher, Penguin Press, Penguin Random House India, said, “Only Siddhartha Mukherjee, with his encyclopedic knowledge and artistic vision, could dream of such an undertaking. The outcome is magnificent.”
India-born Mukherjee, who has also penned a history of the pitfalls and successes in exploring the gene in The Gene: An Intimate History, this time begins the story of the cell with the teamwork of 17th century English polymath Robert Hooke and Dutch cloth merchant Antonie van Leeuwenhoek who discovered that humans are assemblages of self-contained and self-regulating units. This discovery single-handedly changed how the human body was understood and treated for diverse ailments – be it Alzheimer’s, AIDS or COVID-19.
Mukherjee’s research on cancer has enabled new forms of treatment that reach into biological and cellular therapies. He is currently a professor of medicine at Columbia University and a staff cancer physician at the university’s medical center, and lives in New York City.