NIELS KAJ JERNE, FRS (23 December 1911 – 7 October 1994) was a
Danish immunologist . He shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or
Medicine in 1984 with
Georges J. F. Köhler and
Jerne is known for three significant ideas. Firstly, instead of the body producing antibodies in response to an antigen, Jerne postulated that the immune system already has the specific antibodies it needs to fight antigens. Secondly, it was known that the immune system learns to be tolerant to the individual's own self. Jerne postulated that this learning takes place in the thymus. Thirdly, it was known that T cells and B cells communicate with each other. Jerne's network theory proposed that the active sites of antibodies are attracted to both specific antigens (idiotypes) and to other antibodies that bind to the same site. The antibodies are in balance, until an antigen disturbs the balance, stimulating an immune reaction.
* 1 Early years * 2 Research positions * 3 Family life * 4 Awards and honours * 5 References * 6 Bibliography * 7 External links
His ancestors had lived on the small Danish island of
centuries, but in 1910 his parents moved to London where Jerne was
born in 1911. During the
First World War
From 1943 to 1956 Jerne was a research worker at the Danish National
Serum Institute and during this time he formulated a theory on
antibody formation. It is said that Jerne got his revolutionary
scientific idea while bicycling across the
Langebro bridge in
In 1966 Jerne moved back to Europe and took up the position of
Professor of Experimental Therapy at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe
University in Frankfurt. From 1966 to 1969 he was the Director of the
Paul-Ehrlich-Institut , also in
According to Jerne's biographer Thomas Söderqvist, Jerne was not a
bench scientist, could not pipette accurately, and did not enjoy
experimental work. His Nobel Prize was awarded for theories, rather
than discoveries. Jerne developed the "natural selection theory of
immunology," proposed by
Jerne was married three times. He had two sons, Ivar Jerne (born 1936) and Donald Jerne (born 1941), with Tjek Jerne, a painter. Jerne had a third son, Andreas Wettstein, with Gertrud Wettstein, in 1971.
According to Söderqvist, Tjek, 35, was distraught when she found out that Niels was having an affair with her best friend, Adda Sundsig-Hansen. Tjek had confided in Adda about her own affairs, and Adda had told Neils about them too. Niels demanded a divorce. Tjek begged him to stay. After he refused, she killed herself. Ivar woke up in the morning, smelled gas, and found his mother dead by the oven. Jerne treated his second wife as a servant and nanny. Jerne was regularly unfaithful to his wives, and while he was not physically handsome, he attracted women by his charm as a conversationalist and his skills in the arts of love, which included a liking for sadism.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
He was awarded honorary doctorates from
University of Chicago
He was a member of
* Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and
* Member of the
Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
* ^ A B C Askonas, B. A. ; Howard, J. G. (1997). "Niels Kaj Jerne.
23 December 1911--7 October 1994.: Elected F.R.S 1980". Biographical
Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society . 43: 237. doi
* ^ The
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
* Jerne, N. K. (1955). "The Natural-Selection Theory of Antibody
Formation" . Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the
United States of America. 41 (11): 849–857. PMC 534292 . PMID
16589759 . doi :10.1073/pnas.41.11.849 . .
* Jerne, N. K. (1974). "Towards a network theory of the immune
system". Annales d'immunologie. 125C (1–2): 373–389. PMID 4142565
* Jerne, N.K. (1984), Nobel lecture: The Generative Grammar of the
Immune System (PDF), Nobelprize.org, retrieved 20 October 2010 .
* Hoffmann, G.W. (1994), "Niels Jerne,