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10 Best Quotes From "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer" by Siddhartha Mukherjee


Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and now a documentary from Ken Burns on PBS, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is a magnificent, profoundly humane “biography” of cancer—from its first documented appearances thousands of years ago through the epic battles in the twentieth century to cure, control, and conquer it to a radical new understanding of its essence.


  1. “History repeats, but science reverberates.”

  2. “The art of medicine is long, Hippocrates tells us, "and life is short; opportunity fleeting; the experiment perilous; judgment flawed.”

  3. “Down to their innate molecular core, cancer cells are hyperactive, survival-endowed, scrappy, fecund, inventive copies of ourselves.”

  4. “One swallow is a coincidence, but two swallows make summer.”

  5. “This was yet another colonial fascination: to create the conditions of misery in a population, then subject it to social or medical experimentation.”

  6. “All cancers are alike but they are alike in a unique way.”

  7. “Cancer's life is a recapitulation of the body's life, its existence a pathological mirror of our own.”

  8. “In God we trust. All others [must] have data. - Bernard Fisher”

  9. “In the laboratory, we call this the six-degrees-of-separation-from-cancer rule: you can ask any biological question, no matter how seemingly distant…and you will end up, in fewer than six genetic steps, connecting with a proto-oncogene or tumor suppressor.”

  10. ““And it is solely by risking life that freedom is obtained. —Hegel”