Presenting revelatory and exhilarating stories of scientists, doctors, and the patients whose lives may be saved by their work, the author draws on his own experience as a researcher, doctor, and prolific reader to explore how the discovery of cells created a new kind of medicine based on the therapeutic manipulation of cells.
Guided by Mukherjee’s granular narration...I was repeatedly dazzled by his pointillist scenes, the enthusiasm of his explanations, the immediacy of his metaphors. But I also found myself wondering where we were going. What kind of organism might these smaller units add up to? What was the shape of the story he set out to tell? ... The organization of the book may be cellular, but the overall effect can feel sprawling — like a city that allowed developers to keep building lovely houses while doing little to contain them. Similarly, some of the writing in The Song of the Cell is so lovely that you can get caught up in its music. Mukherjee has an undeniable gift for metaphor ... If Mukherjee were another kind of storyteller — tidier, if less honest — he could have showcased a more linear narrative, emphasizing how developments in cell research have yielded some truly amazing possibilities ... But as a practicing physician, he has seen too much suffering and death to succumb to an easy triumphalism.
An engaging formula. He tells a vivid story...and relates it to the broader science. Mukherjee writes lucid sentences dense with metaphors as pedagogical tools ... The author covers the debates that raged in the 18th and 19th centuries between mechanists ... There is nothing odd about finding entrenched orthodoxies repeated in popular science books. What is odd is that Mukherjee, with his emphasis on 'interconnectedness,' 'cooperation' and 'ecological relationships' in biological processes, hovers on the brink of countering his own reductionist argument that the whole is the sum of its parts. He flirts with a form of holism ... Despite its omission of important current disputes in biology, which have roots in earlier centuries, The Song of the Cell is a lively, personal, detailed, often moving account of the cell in medical history and its promise in the present.
... a comprehensive account of basic biology, alongside a history of the many great minds that have helped us to see beyond widespread misconceptions to scientific truth ... This is not just about clear-cut successes: alongside the stories of diligent scientists, there are intriguing tales of the many eccentrics whose contributions were vital to the transformation of medicine. As such, this is a book filled with missteps, arguments and prejudices. It almost made me feel sorry for my scientific colleagues, painstakingly working away in labs, trusting that systematic hard work is all that is required to achieve a big breakthrough ... Mukherjee uses sometimes salutary and always engaging stories such as these to teach the fundamentals of cell biology, but also to illustrate that no one individual is ever responsible for any advancement in science. Rather, progress is made in a series of often unwitting collaborations ... If you are not already in awe of biology, The Song of the Cell might get you there. It is a masterclass in how cells function and malfunction ... Catering for every level of reader, Mukherjee sometimes uses visual metaphor to simplify matters. In so far as it is possible, Mukherjee has captured the wonder of that in one book.