The Smithsonian unveils a portrait of Henrietta Lacks, the black farmer whose cells led to medical miracles

The Mother of Modern Medicine" by Kadir Nelson, oil on linen

(CNN)Her cells are responsible for the polio vaccine, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization to name a few. But for a long time most of the public didn't know her contribution to modern medicine. Neither did she because her cells were harvested without her consent.

This week, the Smithsonian unveiled a portrait of Henrietta Lacks, the black tobacco farmer who ended up changing the world. Her cells have allowed for advances in cancer treatment, AIDS research, cloning, stem-cell studies and so much more. They traveled to the moon to test the effects of zero gravity, and scientists have sold and purchased them by the billions.
The oil-on-linen work, "Henrietta Lacks (HeLa): The Mother of Modern Medicine" will hang inside one of the main entrances of the National Portrait Gallery through November.
No other painted portrait of Lacks existed before this, said Dorothy Moss, the curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery.