The “Emperor’s” Eloquent Explicator

Doctor Siddhatha Mukherjee wrote the best-seller “The Emperor of All Maladies” about cancer in 2010. The second in a planned trilogy, “The Gene: An Intimate History”(2016), is a kind of follow-up, since genetics have a lot to do with cancer, not only in the mechanics of tumors, but also in why some people and animals are more at risk of getting this terrible disease. UCSB Arts & Lectures brought him to Santa Barbara in February, and part of his time here included a visit to the UCSB Life Sciences Dept. for a fascinating and informative informal talk and Q&A with students and faculty. The focus of this seminar was about how the rapid gains being made in the study of the human genome are changing how medicine deals with cancer and other diseases. Dr. Mukherjee gave a sober assessment of the hopes and possibilities, as well as the dangers of this new knowledge that comes with being able to read and, in a limited way, write genetic information. He has a gift for making complex subjects understandable and compelling to professionals and the public at large; a Carl Sagan of biology and medicine.