Siddhartha Mukherjee: Simon & Schuster Speakers Bureau

Siddhartha Mukherjee

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author and Oncologist

Siddhartha Mukherjee, M.D., Ph.D., is a leading cancer physician and researcher. He is an assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University and a cancer physician at the CU/NYU Presbyterian Hospital.

In his most recent text, The Gene: An Intimate History, Mukherjee has written a biography of the gene as deft, brilliant and illuminating as his extraordinarily successful biography of cancer. Weaving science, social history and personal narrative to tell us the story of one of the most important conceptual breakthroughs of modern times, Mukherjee animates the quest to understand human heredity and its surprising influence on our lives, personalities, identities, fates, and choices.

Throughout the narrative, the story of Mukherjee’s own family—with its tragic and bewildering history of mental illness—cuts like a bright, red line, reminding us of the many questions that hang over our ability to translate the science of genetics from the laboratory to the real world. In superb prose and with an instinct for the dramatic scene, he describes the centuries of research and experimentation—from Aristotle and Pythagoras to Mendel and Darwin, from Boveri and Morgan to Crick, Watson and Franklin, all the way through the revolutionary twenty-first century innovators who mapped the human genome.

Ten years in the making, his first book, The Emperor Of All Maladies: A Biography Of Cancer is a magnificent “biography” of this shape-shifting and formidable disease that has plagued and riddled humanity for thousands of years.

From the first known reference to cancer on an ancient Egyptian scroll to the epic modern battles to conquer it, Mukherjee approaches this crucial subject with the passion and fixation of a biographer and the flourish of a novelist. The Emperor Of All Maladies is a story that touches on the brilliance and tenacity that frequently make scientific history—and also on the serendipitous discoveries.

Mukherjee introduces audiences to key figures such as Sidney Farber, the father of modern chemotherapy, holed up in the cellar of a Boston hospital and characterized by a colleague as a “cancer maniac,” and William Halsted, bewhiskered, obsessive, and addicted to cocaine, who created and perfected the radical and super-radical mastectomies that became the norm in cases of breast cancer for decades. They learn about the accidental discovery during World War I of mustard gas as a method for killing cancer cells, and from there the experimental evolution into the specialized chemicals that are just deadly enough to kill cancerous cells without killing normal cells.

Mukherjee tells these stories with the grand sweep that marks The Emperor Of All Maladies as a work of major literature, seamlessly weaving significant moments in cultural history into the narrative. It is also something more personal: audiences will be moved by Mukherjee’s observations about his own coming of age as a physician—especially in his thoughtful and compassionate consideration of his patients as they soldier through toxic, bruising, and draining regimens to battle a relentless disease that fully envelops their lives.

In the past 50 years, Americans have watched as various strategies in the “War on Cancer” have earned the attention of politicians, physicians, the media and, of course, the public. By the end of 2010, cancer is projected to become the leading cause of death worldwide. Cases of cancer doubled globally between 1975 and 2000, and will double again by 2020, nearly tripling by 2030. In America, one in two men and one in three women will get cancer during their lifetime; one in four will die. Mukherjee and The Emperor Of All Maladies could not deliver a more timely message, and he presents it with such clarity and verve that audiences will feel enlightened, even uplifted, despite those grim figures.

A Rhodes Scholar, Mukherjee graduated from Stanford University, University of Oxford, and Harvard Medical School and was a Fellow at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and an attending physician at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He has published articles in Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, Neuron, Journal of Clinical Investigation, The New York Times, and The New Republic. He lives in New York with his wife and daughters.

As The New Yorker said of his first book, The Emperor of All Maladies, “It’s hard to think of many books for a general audience that have rendered any area of modern science and technology with such intelligence, accessibility, and compassion…An extraordinary achievement.” Riveting, revelatory, and magisterial history of a scientific idea coming to life, and an essential preparation for the moral complexity introduced by our ability to create or “write” the human genome, The Gene is a must-read for everyone concerned about the definition and future of humanity. This is the most crucial science of our time, intimately explained by a master.

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  • The Emperor Of All Maladies: A Biography Of Cancer
  • The Changing Landscape of Cancer
  • The Gene: An Intimate History

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