Henrietta Lacks

If nothing else Black History Month is making visible, people and events hitherto unsung.

Also this month we will celebrate women from STEM.  Science Maggie Aderin Pocock is the obvious choice.  Technology, Anne-Marie Imafidon, and the NASA women, hidden figures, see below.   Can anyone help with a woman engineer, preferably British?


It sounds like a name of a chemical from the Periodic table. Say it out loud. A HeLa cell is used in scientific research. It is one of the oldest and most commonly used human cell lines, in research. Cells taken without permission from a black woman suffering from cancer, in the only hospital to take black patients. She later died in great pain, but she left an incredible heritage, as hers were the only cells grown in a lab which would survive for more than a few days. These cells of hers were considered the first immortal cells and were produced and used to  research everything  from  polio, to aids and cancer.

photo of HeLa

Henrietta Lacks from Wikipaedia

The Henrietta Lacks Foundation was founded  by Rebecca Skloot,

author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.

It is believed that over 20 tons of her cells have been produced, for research, yet no one knew, until her family were asked to provide a genetic history. She is finally recognized on October 11, in Atlanta, Georgia, Henrietta Lacks’ Day.    The school  Henrietta Lacks Health and Bioscience High School in Washington commemorates her. It is so fitting that the 4 letters chosen, for the immortal cells of Henrietta Lacks should result in the word Healer.



Surgeon Elizabeth Gordon

Surgeon Elizabeth Gordon

Founder member of the Medical Arm of Amnesty International in 1975

As part of an Australian medical team in Vietnam during the war we treated all people regardless of whether they were North or South. This was a proper hospital at Bien Hoa. You could pick out the Viet Cong by their accent. I treated a man with gunshot wounds to his legs. I fixed him up and the same day he was removed from the hospital, by the Vietnamese police.

“That’s when I became aware of torture.”

In 1975 five of us got together and set up the Medical Group of     Amnesty International.

  Dr Elizabeth Gordon FRCS doesn’t trumpet her achievements. She is a precise woman who sees aesthetics, not just in music and art, but in the elegance and simplicity of the instruments which she uses for surgery.  She loves the precision and delicacy of the instruments.

DR.Dr. Gordon Trustee of the Medical Foundation for Victims of Torture. 1985

One of the original founders of the Medical Group of Amnesty International 1975

“Why do you want to be a surgeon, are you going to be a missionary? “

Continue reading