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Scand J Immunol. 2002 Jun;55(6):539-45.

The life and work of Niels Kaj Jerne as a source of ethical reflection.

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  • 1Department of History of Medicine, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


Niels Kaj Jerne, one of the leading theoreticians in 20th century immunology, was awarded the 1984 medical Nobel Prize for the natural selection theory of antibody formation, the haemolytic plaque technique, and the idiotypic network theory. A number of reasons for remembering Jerne are discussed, and three aspects of his life and work from three different life-phases are analysed. Drawing upon the classical tradition for writing biographies as 'ethical exemplars', the paper concludes that a major reason for remembering Jerne is that his life story addresses fundamental questions about how to live as a scientist in contemporary culture.

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