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Journal Article

The ‘Accidental Immunologist’: An Interview with Professor Sir Gustav Nossal

Warwick Anderson
Health and History
Vol. 16, No. 2 (2014), pp. 115-139
DOI: 10.5401/healthhist.16.2.0115
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5401/healthhist.16.2.0115
Page Count: 25
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The ‘Accidental Immunologist’: An Interview with Professor Sir Gustav Nossal on JSTOR
Witnesses to Australian Medicine

Abstract

On March 17, 2014, I interviewed Professor Sir Gustav V.J. Nossal AC (b. 1931) in an office at the University of Melbourne, opposite the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI), an institute that is, in a sense, his monument. Ebulliently and enthusiastically, Nossal spoke about his medical career and his role in the development of immunology in the 1950s and 1960s. Additionally, he reflected on styles of immunological investigation at the WEHI during the period he directed it (1965–1996), as successor to Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet. I had arranged the interview in order to clarify issues relating to the history of autoimmunity, the subject of a book I was working on, but conversation ranged far more widely.1 Even in his eighties, Nossal conveys an infectious delight in scientific research. Australian of the Year in 2000, a certified living national treasure, Nossal continues to contribute to scientific policy making and public life more generally. He surely is the only person for whom both a Melbourne high school and a global health institute are named.

Keywords Immunology, Autoimmunity, Gustav Nossal, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research, F. Macfarlane Burnet, Virology

Author Information

Warwick Anderson

WARWICK ANDERSON is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Professor in the Department of History and the Centre for Values, Ethics and the Law in Medicine at the University of Sydney. He was the founding editor of Health and History. His books include The Cultivation of Whiteness: Science, Health and Racial Destiny in Australia (Melbourne, 2002; Duke, 2006); Colonial Pathologies: American Tropical Medicine, Race, and Hygiene in the Philippines (Duke, 2006; Ateneo de Manila, 2007); and The Collectors of Lost Souls: Turning Kuru Scientists into Whitemen (Johns Hopkins, 2008), which was awarded the William H. Welch Medal of the American Association of the History of Medicine (2010), and the Ludwik Fleck Award of the Society for Social Studies of Science (2010). His latest book (co-authored with Ian R. Mackay), Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity (Johns Hopkins, 2014), provides a conceptual history of autoimmunity.

References

  1. 1.
    Warwick Anderson and Ian R. Mackay, Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).
  2. 2.
    Sir Harold Dew (1891–1962), Bosch Professor of Surgery (1930–56), University of Sydney. A Melbourne medical graduate, Dew had served as a pathologist in the Middle East during World War I. At WEHI during the 1920s, he collaborated with Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley (1891–1966) on research in hydatid disease and testicular tumours. A blunt and practical man, Dew was dean of medicine at Sydney 1936–38 and 1940–52. He introduced the B.Sc. (Med.) degree in 1949.
  3. 3.
    Ernest H.F. Baldwin, Dynamic Aspects of Biochemistry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947). An English scientist, Baldwin (1909–1969) was a pioneer in the field of comparative biochemistry.
  4. 4.
    Patrick Macartney de Burgh (1916–2010) introduced immunology and virology into medicine at Sydney. A grandson of J.T. Wilson, the first Challis professor of anatomy at Sydney, de Burgh had become interested in viruses during jungle war service in New Guinea. A Rockefeller fellowship (1946–47) allowed him to work in John Enders' laboratory at Harvard. In 1952, he succeeded H.K. Ward as Bosch professor of microbiology, occupying the chair till 1978. Donald Metcalf (1951) and Jacques F.P. Miller (1954)—other WEHI luminaries—were among de Burgh's other B.Sc. (Med.) students.
  5. 5.
    Hugh Kingsley Ward (1887–1972) was Bosch professor of bacteriology (1935–52) at Sydney. A Sydney medical graduate, Ward served with distinction in World War I and later taught bacteriology at the Harvard Medical School, in Hans Zinsser's department. Ward was a mentor there for John Enders (1897–1985), who was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for growing poliomyelitis virus in tissue cultures.
  6. 6.
    J.D. Watson and F.H. Crick, ‘Molecular structure of nucleic acids: a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid’, Nature 171 (1953): 737–8. Watson and Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering the double-helical structure of DNA.
  7. 7.
    G.J.V. Nossal and P.M. de Burgh, ‘Growth Cycle of Ectromelia Virus in Mouse Liver’, Nature 172 (1953): 671.
  8. 8.
    (Hugh) John Forster Cairns (b. 1922), an Oxford medical graduate and son of Sir Hugh Cairns, the Australian professor of surgery at Oxford, worked as a virologist at WEHI and the ANU during the 1950s. From 1963 to 1968, as a molecular biologist he directed the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York. Cairns later became director of the Mill Hill laboratory of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and a professor of public health at Harvard.
  9. 9.
    An Adelaide medical graduate and protégé of Macfarlane Burnet and René Dubos, Frank Fenner (1914–2010) made a name for himself studying pox viruses. He became the inaugural professor of microbiology at the ANU, conducted a classic ecological investigation of myxomatosis, and certified the eradication of smallpox.
  10. 10.
    F.M. Burnet, Principles of Animal Virology (New York: Academic Press, 1955). Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899–1985), an eminent virologist, disease ecologist, and immunologist, was director of the WEHI (1944–64). In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his studies of immunological tolerance.
  11. 11.
    Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital; and Baker Medical Research Institute.
  12. 12.
    Stephen Fazekas de St Groth was a flamboyant Hungarian virologist who conducted research at WEHI and then the ANU. A German biochemist, Alfred Gottschalk (1894–1973) worked in Australia from 1939 until 1963, when he became director of the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research in Tübingen. Ian J. Wood (1903–1986) was a gastroenterologist and director of the Clinical Research Unit of WEHI and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. A virologist, Eric L. French (1914–2002) investigated Murray Valley encephalitis at WEHI in the 1950s before establishing the first animal virology laboratory in Australia at the CSIRO. S. Gray Anderson was another virologist at WEHI, who moved in the late 1950s to the Mill Hill laboratories in London.
  13. 13.
    Hans Zinsser (1878–1940) was an influential Harvard physician, bacteriologist, and popular author.
  14. 14.
    Another Sydney medical graduate, Don Metcalf (b. 1929) moved to WEHI in 1954, where he later discovered the colony-stimulating factors involved in the control of blood cell formation.
  15. 15.
    Jacques F.P. Miller (b. 1931), after graduating in medicine at Sydney, conducted research in London, where he discovered the immunological function of the thymus. In 1966 he returned to Australia to lead a research group at the WEHI.
  16. 16.
    Harold R. Carne (1901–90) was dean of the veterinary school at Sydney (1947–53, 1960–61).
  17. 17.
    In the 1940s, George Hogeboom, Walter Schneider, and George E. Palade at the Rockefeller Institute, New York City, developed the ‘sucrose method’ for homogenisation and fractionation of liver tissue, which helped to establish the field of cell biology.
  18. 18.
    Sir Robert Menzies (1894–1978), prime minister of Australia (1939–41, 1949–66), a strong supporter of universities and medical research. The 1957 Inquiry by the Committee on Australian Universities (Murray Report) heralded increased federal government support for universities.
  19. 19.
    See Warwick Anderson and Ian R. Mackay, ‘Fashioning the immunological self: the biological individuality of F. Macfarlane Burnet’, J. History of Biology 47 (2014): 147–75.
  20. 20.
    Ernest William Goodpasture (1886–1960) with colleagues at Vanderbilt University developed methods for growing viruses in chicken embryos and fertilised chicken eggs.
  21. 21.
    Neuraminidase enzymes are found on the surface the influenza virus, conferring virulence—inhibitors such as zanamivir (Relenza) can block their reproduction. A structural biologist, Peter Colman (b. 1944), helped to develop this drug in Melbourne.
  22. 22.
    F.M. Burnet and P.E. Lind, ‘Influenza Virus Recombination: Experiments Using the De-Embryonated Egg Technique’, Cold Spring Harbor Symposia in Quantitative Biology 18 (1953): 21–4. An American molecular biologist, Joshua Lederberg (1925–2008) was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery that bacteria mate and exchange genes, thereby developing the field of bacterial genetics. He later studied artificial intelligence and the biology of outer space.
  23. 23.
    A Sydney medical graduate, Gordon Ada (1922–2012) conducted biochemical research on viruses at WEHI in the 1950s, discovering that influenza is an RNA virus. He later became head of the department of microbiology at the ANU.
  24. 24.
    F.M. Burnet and Frank Fenner, The Production of Antibodies, 2nd ed. (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1949).
  25. 25.
    Niels K. Jerne, ‘The Natural Selection Theory of Antibody Formation’, Proc. National Academy of Sciences 41 (1955): 849–57. Jerne shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his immunological studies. Burnet modified Jerne's theory, speculating that each immunologically competent cell, or lymphocyte, produces one antibody, and this cell on contact with the specific antigen, or foreign substance, will be selected to proliferate as a ‘clone’. See Anderson and Mackay, ‘Fashioning the Immunological Self’.
  26. 26.
    Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915) was a German immunologist who developed chemotherapy, including Salvarsan, against microbial infection. He also proposed a ‘side-chain’ theory to explain the cellular production of antibodies: see Anderson and Mackay, Intolerant Bodies. Ehrlich was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in recognition of his immunological research.
  27. 27.
    David W. Talmage, “Allergy and immunology’, Annual Review of Medicine 8 (1957): 239–56. At the time, Talmage (1919–2014) was an academic allergist at the University of Chicago. In 1959, he moved to the University of Colorado.
  28. 28.
    F.M. Burnet, The Clonal Selection Theory of Acquired Immunity (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1959). Burnet mentions other work by Talmage but not his paper presaging clonal selection.
  29. 29.
    F.M. Burnet, ‘A Modification of Jerne's Theory of Antibody Production Using the Concept of Clonal Selection’, Australian J. Science 20 (1957): 67–9. Burnet often chose to publish his more speculative theories in Australian journals: if they proved correct, he could claim precedence; if wrong, few outside Australia would notice.
  30. 30.
    The philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper (1902–1994) argued for empirical falsification in scientific method. While a theory can never be proven, it might be falsified.
  31. 31.
    Joshua Lederberg, ‘Genes and Antibodies’, Science 129 (1959): 1649–53.
  32. 32.
    From the late 1950s, Lederberg was concerned about interstellar contamination as the result of the space programme. He coined the term ‘exobiology’ to describe this research project.
  33. 33.
    In 1965, Lederberg, Djerassi, and Edward Feigenbaum at Stanford developed Dendral, the first computer software expert system, meant to aid exobiology research. This automated the determination of chemical structures from mass spectrometry data.
  34. 34.
    See Warwick Anderson, ‘The Reasoning of the Strongest: The Polemics of Skill and Science in Diagnosis’, Social Studies of Science 22 (1992): 653–84.
  35. 35.
    A Sydney University physics graduate, Vance Gledhill was among the first students of computer programming in Australia: in the 1990s, he became the founding director of the Microsoft Insitute, Sydney. A Melbourne medical graduate and protégé of Burnet, John D. Mathews did epidemiological research in New Guinea and Aboriginal Australia, becoming founding director of the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, and the deputy chief medical officer, Canberra.
  36. 36.
    Guiseppe Attardi, Melvin Cohn, Kengo Horibata, and Edwin S. Lennox, ‘Symposium on the Biology of Cells Modified by Viruses or Antigens: II. On the Analysis of Antibody Synthesis at the Cellular Level’, Bacteriological Reviews 23 (1959): 213–23.
  37. 37.
    G.V.J. Nossal and Joshua Lederberg, ‘Antibody Production by Single Cells’, Nature 181 (1958): 1419–20.
  38. 38.
    R.G. White, ‘Antibody Production by Single Cells’, Nature 182 (1958): 1383–4. (White was an associate of John Humphreys.) A.H. Coons, E.H. Leduc, and J.M. Connolly, ‘Studies on Antibody Production: I. A Method for the Histochemical Demonstration of Specific Antibody and its Application to the Study of the Hyperimmune Rabbit’, J. Experimental Medicine 102 (1955): 49–60. Ira Green, Pierre Vassalli, Victor Nussenzweig, and Bajuj Benacerraf, ‘Specificity of the Antibodies Produced by Single Cells Following Immunization with Antigens Bearing Two Types of Antigenic Determinants’, J. Experimental Medicine 125 (1967): 511–26. A Venezuelan-American immunologist, Benacerraf shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his studies of the role of the major histocompatibility complex in the immune response.
  39. 39.
    Leonard A. Herzenberg (1931–2013) developed the fluorescence-activated cell sorter, which eventually allowed purification of adult stem cells.
  40. 40.
    George Klein (b. 1925) is a Hungarian-Swedish immunologist who specialises in cancer research at the Karolinska Institute. Avrion Michison (b. 1928) is a British zoologist and immunologist who discovered low dose and high dose tolerance for a single antigen. Bruce A.D. Stocker (1917–2004) through his studies of bacterial physiology developed Salmonella vaccines at Stanford. A Romanian-American cell biologist, George E. Palade (1912–2008) shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation, which revolutionised molecular understanding of the cell. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (b. 1922) is an Italian-American population geneticist based at Stanford. For his studies of graft rejection and acquired immune tolerance, British biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915–1987) shared (with Burnet) the 1960 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
  41. 41.
    A Russian-French geneticist, Boris Ephrussi (1901–1979) studied the development of the embryo as he commuted between Paris and Berkeley.
  42. 42.
    Arthur Kornberg (1918–2007) won the 1959 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the mechanism of synthesis of DNA. Kornberg helped to establish a department of genetics at Stanford in order to lure Lederberg from Madison.
  43. 43.
    Halstead R. Holman (b. 1925) had worked with Henry Kunkel (1916–83) at Rockefeller University, New York, on the mechanisms of autoimmune disease. Avram Goldstein (1919–2012), a pharmacologist, was one of the discoverers of endorphins. Hugh McDevitt (b. 1930) discovered the immune response genes and explained the role of the major histocompatibility complex in the immune system.
  44. 44.
    An Argentinian-British immunologist, César Milstein (1927–2002) developed the hybridoma technique for the production of monoclonal antibodies, for which he shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
  45. 45.
    Sidney Raffel (1912–2014) was chair of the microbiology department at Stanford from 1953 to 1976.
  46. 46.
    Charles Yanovsky (b. 1925) is a leading bacterial geneticist who showed how RNA regulates bacterial and animal cells.
  47. 47.
    Thomas E. Lowe (1908–1990) studied congestive heart failure at the Baker Institute. The Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine (now the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health) was established in 1971.
  48. 48.
    Charles Kellaway (1889–1952) was director of the WEHI (1923–43) before taking up a post at the Wellcome Research Laboratories, London.
  49. 49.
    One of the founders of clinical immunology, Ian R. Mackay (b. 1922) directed the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) of the WEHI from 1963 until 1987.
  50. 50.
    Duncan D. Adams is a New Zealand immunologist.
  51. 51.
    In the late 1950s, while at SUNY-Buffalo, New York, Noel R. Rose, working with Ernst Witebsky, discovered autoimmune thyroiditis; Rose later became chair of the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. A German-American immunologist, Witebsky (1901–69) worked mostly on blood group antibodies. In London, Ivan Roitt (b. 1927) and Deborah Doniach (1912–2004) found thyroglobulin autoantibodies in patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis; they later established the autoimmune origin of primary biliary cirrhosis.
  52. 52.
    In the mid-1950s, working at WEHI with Ian Mackay, D. Carleton Gajdusek (1923–2008) developed the autoimmune complement fixation test, which determined that chronic active hepatitis was an autoimmune disorder. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the ‘slow virus’ transmission of kuru.
  53. 53.
    See Ian R. Mackay and F.M. Burnet, Autoimmune Diseases: Pathogenesis, Chemistry and Therapy (Springfield Ill: Charles C. Thomas, 1963).
  54. 54.
    Sir David Keith Peters (b. 1938) was professor of medicine at the University of Cambridge, where he studied the immunology of renal and vascular disease.
  55. 55.
    Sir James L. Gowans (b. 1924) discovered the role of lymphocytes in the immune response. John H. Humphrey (1915–87) was a prominent British immunologist.
  56. 56.
    Susumu Tonegawa (b. 1939) was awared the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the genetic mechanism in lymphocytes that produces antibody diversity.
  57. 57.
    At Caltech, immunologist Leroy Hood (b. 1938) and colleagues developed the technologies used in genomics, proteomics, and systems biology.
  58. 58.
    See Anderson and Mackay, ‘Fashioning the Immunological Self’.
  59. 59.
    The belief that autoimmune disease is dysteleological, associated with Ehrlich, and often cited by those opposed to the concept of autoimmunity.
  60. 60.
    An American physician and essayist, Lewis Thomas (1913–93) introduced the concept of immune surveillance in 1959, some five years before Burnet.
  61. 61.
    A graduate of WEHI, Jonathan Sprent conducts research on lymphocyte function and transplantation immunology at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.

References

  1. 1.
    Warwick Anderson and Ian R. Mackay, Intolerant Bodies: A Short History of Autoimmunity (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014).
  2. 2.
    Sir Harold Dew (1891–1962), Bosch Professor of Surgery (1930–56), University of Sydney. A Melbourne medical graduate, Dew had served as a pathologist in the Middle East during World War I. At WEHI during the 1920s, he collaborated with Sir Neil Hamilton Fairley (1891–1966) on research in hydatid disease and testicular tumours. A blunt and practical man, Dew was dean of medicine at Sydney 1936–38 and 1940–52. He introduced the B.Sc. (Med.) degree in 1949.
  3. 3.
    Ernest H.F. Baldwin, Dynamic Aspects of Biochemistry (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1947). An English scientist, Baldwin (1909–1969) was a pioneer in the field of comparative biochemistry.
  4. 4.
    Patrick Macartney de Burgh (1916–2010) introduced immunology and virology into medicine at Sydney. A grandson of J.T. Wilson, the first Challis professor of anatomy at Sydney, de Burgh had become interested in viruses during jungle war service in New Guinea. A Rockefeller fellowship (1946–47) allowed him to work in John Enders' laboratory at Harvard. In 1952, he succeeded H.K. Ward as Bosch professor of microbiology, occupying the chair till 1978. Donald Metcalf (1951) and Jacques F.P. Miller (1954)—other WEHI luminaries—were among de Burgh's other B.Sc. (Med.) students.
  5. 5.
    Hugh Kingsley Ward (1887–1972) was Bosch professor of bacteriology (1935–52) at Sydney. A Sydney medical graduate, Ward served with distinction in World War I and later taught bacteriology at the Harvard Medical School, in Hans Zinsser's department. Ward was a mentor there for John Enders (1897–1985), who was awarded the 1954 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for growing poliomyelitis virus in tissue cultures.
  6. 6.
    J.D. Watson and F.H. Crick, ‘Molecular structure of nucleic acids: a structure for deoxyribose nucleic acid’, Nature 171 (1953): 737–8. Watson and Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for discovering the double-helical structure of DNA.
  7. 7.
    G.J.V. Nossal and P.M. de Burgh, ‘Growth Cycle of Ectromelia Virus in Mouse Liver’, Nature 172 (1953): 671.
  8. 8.
    (Hugh) John Forster Cairns (b. 1922), an Oxford medical graduate and son of Sir Hugh Cairns, the Australian professor of surgery at Oxford, worked as a virologist at WEHI and the ANU during the 1950s. From 1963 to 1968, as a molecular biologist he directed the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, New York. Cairns later became director of the Mill Hill laboratory of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and a professor of public health at Harvard.
  9. 9.
    An Adelaide medical graduate and protégé of Macfarlane Burnet and René Dubos, Frank Fenner (1914–2010) made a name for himself studying pox viruses. He became the inaugural professor of microbiology at the ANU, conducted a classic ecological investigation of myxomatosis, and certified the eradication of smallpox.
  10. 10.
    F.M. Burnet, Principles of Animal Virology (New York: Academic Press, 1955). Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet (1899–1985), an eminent virologist, disease ecologist, and immunologist, was director of the WEHI (1944–64). In 1960, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his studies of immunological tolerance.
  11. 11.
    Fairfield Infectious Diseases Hospital; and Baker Medical Research Institute.
  12. 12.
    Stephen Fazekas de St Groth was a flamboyant Hungarian virologist who conducted research at WEHI and then the ANU. A German biochemist, Alfred Gottschalk (1894–1973) worked in Australia from 1939 until 1963, when he became director of the Max Planck Institute for Virus Research in Tübingen. Ian J. Wood (1903–1986) was a gastroenterologist and director of the Clinical Research Unit of WEHI and the Royal Melbourne Hospital. A virologist, Eric L. French (1914–2002) investigated Murray Valley encephalitis at WEHI in the 1950s before establishing the first animal virology laboratory in Australia at the CSIRO. S. Gray Anderson was another virologist at WEHI, who moved in the late 1950s to the Mill Hill laboratories in London.
  13. 13.
    Hans Zinsser (1878–1940) was an influential Harvard physician, bacteriologist, and popular author.
  14. 14.
    Another Sydney medical graduate, Don Metcalf (b. 1929) moved to WEHI in 1954, where he later discovered the colony-stimulating factors involved in the control of blood cell formation.
  15. 15.
    Jacques F.P. Miller (b. 1931), after graduating in medicine at Sydney, conducted research in London, where he discovered the immunological function of the thymus. In 1966 he returned to Australia to lead a research group at the WEHI.
  16. 16.
    Harold R. Carne (1901–90) was dean of the veterinary school at Sydney (1947–53, 1960–61).
  17. 17.
    In the 1940s, George Hogeboom, Walter Schneider, and George E. Palade at the Rockefeller Institute, New York City, developed the ‘sucrose method’ for homogenisation and fractionation of liver tissue, which helped to establish the field of cell biology.
  18. 18.
    Sir Robert Menzies (1894–1978), prime minister of Australia (1939–41, 1949–66), a strong supporter of universities and medical research. The 1957 Inquiry by the Committee on Australian Universities (Murray Report) heralded increased federal government support for universities.
  19. 19.
    See Warwick Anderson and Ian R. Mackay, ‘Fashioning the immunological self: the biological individuality of F. Macfarlane Burnet’, J. History of Biology 47 (2014): 147–75.
  20. 20.
    Ernest William Goodpasture (1886–1960) with colleagues at Vanderbilt University developed methods for growing viruses in chicken embryos and fertilised chicken eggs.
  21. 21.
    Neuraminidase enzymes are found on the surface the influenza virus, conferring virulence—inhibitors such as zanamivir (Relenza) can block their reproduction. A structural biologist, Peter Colman (b. 1944), helped to develop this drug in Melbourne.
  22. 22.
    F.M. Burnet and P.E. Lind, ‘Influenza Virus Recombination: Experiments Using the De-Embryonated Egg Technique’, Cold Spring Harbor Symposia in Quantitative Biology 18 (1953): 21–4. An American molecular biologist, Joshua Lederberg (1925–2008) was awarded the 1958 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery that bacteria mate and exchange genes, thereby developing the field of bacterial genetics. He later studied artificial intelligence and the biology of outer space.
  23. 23.
    A Sydney medical graduate, Gordon Ada (1922–2012) conducted biochemical research on viruses at WEHI in the 1950s, discovering that influenza is an RNA virus. He later became head of the department of microbiology at the ANU.
  24. 24.
    F.M. Burnet and Frank Fenner, The Production of Antibodies, 2nd ed. (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1949).
  25. 25.
    Niels K. Jerne, ‘The Natural Selection Theory of Antibody Formation’, Proc. National Academy of Sciences 41 (1955): 849–57. Jerne shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his immunological studies. Burnet modified Jerne's theory, speculating that each immunologically competent cell, or lymphocyte, produces one antibody, and this cell on contact with the specific antigen, or foreign substance, will be selected to proliferate as a ‘clone’. See Anderson and Mackay, ‘Fashioning the Immunological Self’.
  26. 26.
    Paul Ehrlich (1854–1915) was a German immunologist who developed chemotherapy, including Salvarsan, against microbial infection. He also proposed a ‘side-chain’ theory to explain the cellular production of antibodies: see Anderson and Mackay, Intolerant Bodies. Ehrlich was awarded the 1908 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in recognition of his immunological research.
  27. 27.
    David W. Talmage, “Allergy and immunology’, Annual Review of Medicine 8 (1957): 239–56. At the time, Talmage (1919–2014) was an academic allergist at the University of Chicago. In 1959, he moved to the University of Colorado.
  28. 28.
    F.M. Burnet, The Clonal Selection Theory of Acquired Immunity (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1959). Burnet mentions other work by Talmage but not his paper presaging clonal selection.
  29. 29.
    F.M. Burnet, ‘A Modification of Jerne's Theory of Antibody Production Using the Concept of Clonal Selection’, Australian J. Science 20 (1957): 67–9. Burnet often chose to publish his more speculative theories in Australian journals: if they proved correct, he could claim precedence; if wrong, few outside Australia would notice.
  30. 30.
    The philosopher of science Sir Karl Popper (1902–1994) argued for empirical falsification in scientific method. While a theory can never be proven, it might be falsified.
  31. 31.
    Joshua Lederberg, ‘Genes and Antibodies’, Science 129 (1959): 1649–53.
  32. 32.
    From the late 1950s, Lederberg was concerned about interstellar contamination as the result of the space programme. He coined the term ‘exobiology’ to describe this research project.
  33. 33.
    In 1965, Lederberg, Djerassi, and Edward Feigenbaum at Stanford developed Dendral, the first computer software expert system, meant to aid exobiology research. This automated the determination of chemical structures from mass spectrometry data.
  34. 34.
    See Warwick Anderson, ‘The Reasoning of the Strongest: The Polemics of Skill and Science in Diagnosis’, Social Studies of Science 22 (1992): 653–84.
  35. 35.
    A Sydney University physics graduate, Vance Gledhill was among the first students of computer programming in Australia: in the 1990s, he became the founding director of the Microsoft Insitute, Sydney. A Melbourne medical graduate and protégé of Burnet, John D. Mathews did epidemiological research in New Guinea and Aboriginal Australia, becoming founding director of the Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, and the deputy chief medical officer, Canberra.
  36. 36.
    Guiseppe Attardi, Melvin Cohn, Kengo Horibata, and Edwin S. Lennox, ‘Symposium on the Biology of Cells Modified by Viruses or Antigens: II. On the Analysis of Antibody Synthesis at the Cellular Level’, Bacteriological Reviews 23 (1959): 213–23.
  37. 37.
    G.V.J. Nossal and Joshua Lederberg, ‘Antibody Production by Single Cells’, Nature 181 (1958): 1419–20.
  38. 38.
    R.G. White, ‘Antibody Production by Single Cells’, Nature 182 (1958): 1383–4. (White was an associate of John Humphreys.) A.H. Coons, E.H. Leduc, and J.M. Connolly, ‘Studies on Antibody Production: I. A Method for the Histochemical Demonstration of Specific Antibody and its Application to the Study of the Hyperimmune Rabbit’, J. Experimental Medicine 102 (1955): 49–60. Ira Green, Pierre Vassalli, Victor Nussenzweig, and Bajuj Benacerraf, ‘Specificity of the Antibodies Produced by Single Cells Following Immunization with Antigens Bearing Two Types of Antigenic Determinants’, J. Experimental Medicine 125 (1967): 511–26. A Venezuelan-American immunologist, Benacerraf shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his studies of the role of the major histocompatibility complex in the immune response.
  39. 39.
    Leonard A. Herzenberg (1931–2013) developed the fluorescence-activated cell sorter, which eventually allowed purification of adult stem cells.
  40. 40.
    George Klein (b. 1925) is a Hungarian-Swedish immunologist who specialises in cancer research at the Karolinska Institute. Avrion Michison (b. 1928) is a British zoologist and immunologist who discovered low dose and high dose tolerance for a single antigen. Bruce A.D. Stocker (1917–2004) through his studies of bacterial physiology developed Salmonella vaccines at Stanford. A Romanian-American cell biologist, George E. Palade (1912–2008) shared the 1974 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation, which revolutionised molecular understanding of the cell. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza (b. 1922) is an Italian-American population geneticist based at Stanford. For his studies of graft rejection and acquired immune tolerance, British biologist Sir Peter Medawar (1915–1987) shared (with Burnet) the 1960 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
  41. 41.
    A Russian-French geneticist, Boris Ephrussi (1901–1979) studied the development of the embryo as he commuted between Paris and Berkeley.
  42. 42.
    Arthur Kornberg (1918–2007) won the 1959 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the mechanism of synthesis of DNA. Kornberg helped to establish a department of genetics at Stanford in order to lure Lederberg from Madison.
  43. 43.
    Halstead R. Holman (b. 1925) had worked with Henry Kunkel (1916–83) at Rockefeller University, New York, on the mechanisms of autoimmune disease. Avram Goldstein (1919–2012), a pharmacologist, was one of the discoverers of endorphins. Hugh McDevitt (b. 1930) discovered the immune response genes and explained the role of the major histocompatibility complex in the immune system.
  44. 44.
    An Argentinian-British immunologist, César Milstein (1927–2002) developed the hybridoma technique for the production of monoclonal antibodies, for which he shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine.
  45. 45.
    Sidney Raffel (1912–2014) was chair of the microbiology department at Stanford from 1953 to 1976.
  46. 46.
    Charles Yanovsky (b. 1925) is a leading bacterial geneticist who showed how RNA regulates bacterial and animal cells.
  47. 47.
    Thomas E. Lowe (1908–1990) studied congestive heart failure at the Baker Institute. The Howard Florey Institute of Experimental Physiology and Medicine (now the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health) was established in 1971.
  48. 48.
    Charles Kellaway (1889–1952) was director of the WEHI (1923–43) before taking up a post at the Wellcome Research Laboratories, London.
  49. 49.
    One of the founders of clinical immunology, Ian R. Mackay (b. 1922) directed the Clinical Research Unit (CRU) of the WEHI from 1963 until 1987.
  50. 50.
    Duncan D. Adams is a New Zealand immunologist.
  51. 51.
    In the late 1950s, while at SUNY-Buffalo, New York, Noel R. Rose, working with Ernst Witebsky, discovered autoimmune thyroiditis; Rose later became chair of the department of immunology and infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Medical School. A German-American immunologist, Witebsky (1901–69) worked mostly on blood group antibodies. In London, Ivan Roitt (b. 1927) and Deborah Doniach (1912–2004) found thyroglobulin autoantibodies in patients with Hashimoto's thyroiditis; they later established the autoimmune origin of primary biliary cirrhosis.
  52. 52.
    In the mid-1950s, working at WEHI with Ian Mackay, D. Carleton Gajdusek (1923–2008) developed the autoimmune complement fixation test, which determined that chronic active hepatitis was an autoimmune disorder. In 1976 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the ‘slow virus’ transmission of kuru.
  53. 53.
    See Ian R. Mackay and F.M. Burnet, Autoimmune Diseases: Pathogenesis, Chemistry and Therapy (Springfield Ill: Charles C. Thomas, 1963).
  54. 54.
    Sir David Keith Peters (b. 1938) was professor of medicine at the University of Cambridge, where he studied the immunology of renal and vascular disease.
  55. 55.
    Sir James L. Gowans (b. 1924) discovered the role of lymphocytes in the immune response. John H. Humphrey (1915–87) was a prominent British immunologist.
  56. 56.
    Susumu Tonegawa (b. 1939) was awared the 1987 Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discovery of the genetic mechanism in lymphocytes that produces antibody diversity.
  57. 57.
    At Caltech, immunologist Leroy Hood (b. 1938) and colleagues developed the technologies used in genomics, proteomics, and systems biology.
  58. 58.
    See Anderson and Mackay, ‘Fashioning the Immunological Self’.
  59. 59.
    The belief that autoimmune disease is dysteleological, associated with Ehrlich, and often cited by those opposed to the concept of autoimmunity.
  60. 60.
    An American physician and essayist, Lewis Thomas (1913–93) introduced the concept of immune surveillance in 1959, some five years before Burnet.
  61. 61.
    A graduate of WEHI, Jonathan Sprent conducts research on lymphocyte function and transplantation immunology at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney.