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Siddhartha Mukherjee - 2018 Presidential Lecture in the Humanities and Arts

Stanford alum Siddhartha Mukherjee explores how cancer has changed our culture at the 2018 Stanford Humanities Center Presidential Lecture

In the 2018 Stanford Humanities Center Presidential Lecture in the Humanities and Arts, titled “Welcome to Cancer Land,” Pulitzer Prize-winning physician Siddhartha Mukherjee (BS ’93) showed how genetic research is reshaping our understanding of cancer, our society, and ourselves. Mixing his own research findings with moving stories of the toll cancer takes on individuals and families, Mukherjee reflected on the fearsome predictive power of genetic testing for deadly diseases.

A cancer physician and researcher at Columbia University, Mukherjee has never drawn a hard line between the humanities and sciences. He cited the Stanford undergraduate seminar called “The Humanities of Science” as an inspiration for his medical career. Scientific research might advance medicine, he observed, but those advances derive meaning from knowledge born in the humanities. Insights from his laboratory shape the way he tells stories about medicine, from his epic “biography of cancer,” the 2011 Pulitzer Prize-winning The Emperor of Maladies, to his popular essays on disease, genetics, and technology for publications such as the New Yorker and the New York Times. 

Mukherjee’s wide-ranging interests across the humanities and sciences make him a “veritable renaissance man” and “master storyteller,” according to Stanford University President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, who introduced Mukherjee at the lecture. Funded by the Office of the President, the annual lecture hosts the most distinguished voices of our time to talk with faculty, students, and the community at large.