She may not have been a scientist by trade, but Henrietta Lacks became one of the most influential people in the history of modern medicine. While she was being operated on for cervical cancer at age 30 in 1951, a doctor took a piece of Henrietta's tumor without her permission, and those cells became crucial to the development of the polio vaccine. She was never formally recognized for her contribution to science, but Henrietta's HeLa cells (pictured above) were also used in the research for cloning, gene mapping, and in vitro fertilization.
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