Acclaimed oncologist, cancer researcher and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee will visit Lawrence this week as part of the Hall Center’s Humanities Lecture Series at the University of Kansas.
Mukherjee’s presentation, “The Gene: An Intimate History,” will start at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Lied Center, 1600 Stewart Drive. The event, sponsored by the Hall Family Foundation, is free and open to the public, with a book signing to follow.
“This is someone who’s of note, who has a national reputation, and I’m just thrilled that he’ll be able to share his insight with KU and the KU and Lawrence communities,” said Clarence Lang, acting director of the Hall Center.
The Indian-born Harvard Medical School alumnus earned a 2011 Pulitzer for his first book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” which traces the history of cancer diagnoses and treatment from ancient to modern times.
In 2015, celebrated filmmaker Ken Burns produced a PBS documentary based on Mukherjee’s work, the Emmy-nominated “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies.”
Mukherjee’s latest book, last year’s “The Gene: An Intimate History,” chronicles the history of the gene while pondering what becomes of humanity “when we learn to ‘read and write our own genetic information,’” according to the publisher’s description. “The Gene” debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list in spring 2016.
“What makes me excited about this individual is the fact that this is someone who is doing work that illustrates how humanities can inspire and shape the sciences in the same way that the sciences provide fertile grounds for our thinking about the human condition,” said Lang, a professor of African and African-American studies at KU, of Mukherjee.
"Oftentimes we function with a sharp distinction between the two — that the sciences are apart from the humanities,” Lang said. “This literally reinforces how they can reinforce and complement each other.”
Mukherjee’s accolades include a finalist spot for the 2011 National Book Critics Circle Award, an inclusion of “The Emperor of All Maladies” on Time magazine’s 2011 list of the best nonfiction books of all time, and a “10 Best Books of 2016” nod for “The Gene” from the Washington Post. Mukherjee was also named one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2011’s TIME 100.
On Tuesday, he’ll join the roster of 150-plus international scholars to have participated in the Hall Center Humanities Lecture Series since 1947. Previous speakers include authors Salman Rushdie and Junot Diaz, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, poets Nikky Finney and Mary Oliver, and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.