Henrietta Lacks

This entry is a bit different from the rest. Henrietta passed away from cervical cancer at the age of 31 on October 4th, 1951. She was not a scientist (at least not in career), nor did she ever invent anything or make any groundbreaking discoveries. Instead, she is remembered for her cancer cells - rather, the HeLa cell line derived from those cancer cells, the first immortalized human cell line, used in medical research from the days of her death to today. She did not know that her cells were going to be immortalized when her tumor was biopsied during her treatment - back in the 1950’s, no consent (nor compensation) was required when donating biological material to scientific research. This obviously brings up privacy concerns, as well as concerns revolving around the rights of medical patients in the United States. Today, there are around 11,000 patents that involve HeLa cells, as they are used for research into diseases like AIDS and cancer, gene mapping, radiation, industrial reactions, and limitless other pursuits.

Henrietta Lacks