Study Guide

Mary Kubicek in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

By Rebecca Skloot

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Mary Kubicek

Mary Kubicek may not have been as eccentric or as brilliant as her boss George Gey, but this lab assistant is the one who actually makes the first HeLa cultures happen. When she receives Henrietta's tissue from Dr. Wharton (who gave Henrietta her radium treatments), it's Kubicek's painstaking attention to the details of the culturing process set forth by Gey and Margaret that sets this whole story in motion.

We also learn that Kubicek responds to Henrietta's suffering in a way that we don't see from any other person in the medical field. She actually connects to Henrietta's humanity when she sees her painted toenails during Henrietta's autopsy. She's overwhelmed when she thinks that the cells she's been culturing came from a real person.

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