The Info List - Niels Kaj Jerne

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Niels Kaj Jerne, FRS[1] (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
Georges J. F. Köhler
and César Milstein
César Milstein
"for theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and the discovery of the principle for production of monoclonal antibodies". 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.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]


1 Early years 2 Research positions 3 Family life 4 Awards and honours 5 References 6 Bibliography 7 External links

Early years[edit] His ancestors had lived on the small Danish island of Fanø
for centuries, but, in 1910, his parents moved to London where Jerne was born in 1911.[2] During the First World War
First World War
his parents moved to the Netherlands
and Jerne spent his youth in Rotterdam. After studying physics for two years at the Leiden University, Jerne moved to Copenhagen
and changed his studies to the field of medicine. He graduated from the University of Copenhagen
with a degree in medicine in 1947. Four years later, he was awarded the doctorate for his thesis, A Study of Avidity Based on Rabbit Skin Responses to Diphtheria Toxin-Antitoxin Mixtures.[citation needed] Research positions[edit] 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 Copenhagen
on his way home from work.[3] The antibody formation theory gave Jerne international recognition and in 1956 Jerne went to work for the World Health Organization
World Health Organization
in Geneva, where he served as the Head of the Sections of Biological Standards and of Immunology. He held this post for six years until moving to the United States and the University of Pittsburgh
University of Pittsburgh
in 1962 to work as Professor of Microbiology
and Chairman of the Department of Microbiology
for four years. Jerne continued to do work for the World Health Organization as a member of the Expert Advisory Panel of Immunology
from 1962 and onwards. 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 Frankfurt. In 1969 Jerne again switched jobs, this time to Basel
in Switzerland, where he was the Director of the Basel
Institute for Immunology
until his retirement in 1980. During the 1970s and 1980s, Jerne was a pioneer in the development of immune network theory. 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 Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
50 years earlier, although he was missing the clonal selection element proposed by David Talmage and then by Frank Macfarlane Burnet. It was met by skepticism among his colleagues at first, James Watson
James Watson
for example told Jerne bluntly that his theory "stinks".[4] Family life[edit] 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.[5] Jerne reportedly treated his second wife like a servant and nanny. He was serially unfaithful to his wives.[4] Awards and honours[edit]

Marcel Benoist Prize (1978) Paul Ehrlich
Paul Ehrlich
and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize (1982)

He was awarded honorary doctorates from

University of Chicago
University of Chicago
(1972) Columbia University
Columbia University
(1978) University of Copenhagen
University of Copenhagen
(1979) University of Basel
(1981) Erasmus University Rotterdam

He was a member of

Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1967) Member of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters
(1969) SSI Honorary Member (1970)[6] Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Sciences (1975) Foreign Member of the American Philosophical Society (1979) Elected a Fellow of the Royal Society
Fellow of the Royal Society
(FRS) in 1980[1] Member of the Académie des Sciences
Académie des Sciences


^ 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:10.1098/rsbm.1997.0013.  ^ The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
1984: Niels K. Jerne – autobiography, Nobelprize.org, retrieved 20 October 2010  ^ Dubiski, S. (2004-03-10). "Science as Autobiography: The Troubled Life of Niels Jerne". JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association. 291 (10): 1267–1268. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1267. ISSN 0098-7484.  ^ a b Yewdell, Jonathan W. (October 2003). "He put the Id in Idiotype; book review of Science As Autobiography The Troubled Life of Niels Jerne by Thomas Söderqvist". EMBO Rep. 4 (10): 931. doi:10.1038/sj.embor.embor951. PMC 1326409 .  ^ Thomas Söderqvist, Niels Kaj Jerne.Science as autobiography: the troubled life of Niels Jerne, Ch. 9, "Letters are a Spiritual Spiderweb in Which you Snare the Dreaming Soul of a Woman". ^ "Honorary Members". www.scandinavianimmunology.nu. Retrieved 2018-02-11. 


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. doi:10.1073/pnas.41.11.849. PMC 534292 . PMID 16589759. . 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, Immunologist
1911–1994", Vaccine Research, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., 3: 173–174, archived from the original on 6 October 2014 . Söderqvist, T. (2003), Science as Autobiography: The Troubled Life of Niels Jerne, (David Mel Paul trans.), New Haven, Conn: Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-09441-8 . Dubiski, S. (2004). "Science as Autobiography: The Troubled Life of Niels Jerne". JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association. 291 (10): 1267. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1267. 

External links[edit]

The Nobel Citation Biography from the Nobel Foundation Interviews with Nobel Prize winning scientists: Niels Jerne, BBC, 25 April 1987 . Video of an interviewed with Lewis Wolpert. Duration 37 minutes.

v t e

Laureates of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine


1901 Emil Behring 1902 Ronald Ross 1903 Niels Finsen 1904 Ivan Pavlov 1905 Robert Koch 1906 Camillo Golgi
Camillo Golgi
/ Santiago Ramón y Cajal 1907 Alphonse Laveran 1908 Élie Metchnikoff
Élie Metchnikoff
/ Paul Ehrlich 1909 Emil Kocher 1910 Albrecht Kossel 1911 Allvar Gullstrand 1912 Alexis Carrel 1913 Charles Richet 1914 Róbert Bárány 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 Jules Bordet 1920 August Krogh 1921 1922 Archibald Hill
Archibald Hill
/ Otto Meyerhof 1923 Frederick Banting
Frederick Banting
/ John Macleod 1924 Willem Einthoven 1925


1926 Johannes Fibiger 1927 Julius Wagner-Jauregg 1928 Charles Nicolle 1929 Christiaan Eijkman
Christiaan Eijkman
/ Frederick Gowland Hopkins 1930 Karl Landsteiner 1931 Otto Warburg 1932 Charles Scott Sherrington
Charles Scott Sherrington
/ Edgar Adrian 1933 Thomas Morgan 1934 George Whipple
George Whipple
/ George Minot
George Minot
/ William Murphy 1935 Hans Spemann 1936 Henry Dale / Otto Loewi 1937 Albert Szent-Györgyi 1938 Corneille Heymans 1939 Gerhard Domagk 1940 1941 1942 1943 Henrik Dam
Henrik Dam
/ Edward Doisy 1944 Joseph Erlanger
Joseph Erlanger
/ Herbert Gasser 1945 Alexander Fleming
Alexander Fleming
/ Ernst Chain
Ernst Chain
/ Howard Florey 1946 Hermann Muller 1947 Carl Cori / Gerty Cori
Gerty Cori
/ Bernardo Houssay 1948 Paul Müller 1949 Walter Hess / António Egas Moniz 1950 Edward Kendall / Tadeusz Reichstein
Tadeusz Reichstein
/ Philip Hench


1951 Max Theiler 1952 Selman Waksman 1953 Hans Krebs / Fritz Lipmann 1954 John Enders / Thomas Weller / Frederick Robbins 1955 Hugo Theorell 1956 André Cournand / Werner Forssmann
Werner Forssmann
/ Dickinson W. Richards 1957 Daniel Bovet 1958 George Beadle / Edward Tatum
Edward Tatum
/ Joshua Lederberg 1959 Severo Ochoa
Severo Ochoa
/ Arthur Kornberg 1960 Frank Burnet / Peter Medawar 1961 Georg von Békésy 1962 Francis Crick
Francis Crick
/ James Watson
James Watson
/ Maurice Wilkins 1963 John Eccles / Alan Hodgkin / Andrew Huxley 1964 Konrad Bloch / Feodor Lynen 1965 François Jacob
François Jacob
/ André Lwoff / Jacques Monod 1966 Francis Rous / Charles B. Huggins 1967 Ragnar Granit
Ragnar Granit
/ Haldan Hartline / George Wald 1968 Robert W. Holley
Robert W. Holley
/ Har Khorana / Marshall Nirenberg 1969 Max Delbrück
Max Delbrück
/ Alfred Hershey
Alfred Hershey
/ Salvador Luria 1970 Bernard Katz / Ulf von Euler
Ulf von Euler
/ Julius Axelrod 1971 Earl Sutherland Jr. 1972 Gerald Edelman
Gerald Edelman
/ Rodney Porter 1973 Karl von Frisch
Karl von Frisch
/ Konrad Lorenz
Konrad Lorenz
/ Nikolaas Tinbergen 1974 Albert Claude
Albert Claude
/ Christian de Duve
Christian de Duve
/ George Palade 1975 David Baltimore
David Baltimore
/ Renato Dulbecco
Renato Dulbecco
/ Howard Temin


1976 Baruch Blumberg / Daniel Gajdusek 1977 Roger Guillemin / Andrew Schally
Andrew Schally
/ Rosalyn Yalow 1978 Werner Arber
Werner Arber
/ Daniel Nathans
Daniel Nathans
/ Hamilton O. Smith 1979 Allan Cormack / Godfrey Hounsfield 1980 Baruj Benacerraf / Jean Dausset
Jean Dausset
/ George Snell 1981 Roger Sperry / David H. Hubel
David H. Hubel
/ Torsten Wiesel 1982 Sune Bergström
Sune Bergström
/ Bengt I. Samuelsson / John Vane 1983 Barbara McClintock 1984 Niels Jerne / Georges Köhler / César Milstein 1985 Michael Brown / Joseph L. Goldstein 1986 Stanley Cohen / Rita Levi-Montalcini 1987 Susumu Tonegawa 1988 James W. Black / Gertrude B. Elion
Gertrude B. Elion
/ George H. Hitchings 1989 J. Michael Bishop
J. Michael Bishop
/ Harold E. Varmus 1990 Joseph Murray
Joseph Murray
/ E. Donnall Thomas 1991 Erwin Neher
Erwin Neher
/ Bert Sakmann 1992 Edmond Fischer / Edwin G. Krebs 1993 Richard J. Roberts
Richard J. Roberts
/ Phillip Sharp 1994 Alfred G. Gilman
Alfred G. Gilman
/ Martin Rodbell 1995 Edward B. Lewis
Edward B. Lewis
/ Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
/ Eric F. Wieschaus 1996 Peter C. Doherty
Peter C. Doherty
/ Rolf M. Zinkernagel 1997 Stanley B. Prusiner 1998 Robert F. Furchgott
Robert F. Furchgott
/ Louis Ignarro
Louis Ignarro
/ Ferid Murad 1999 Günter Blobel 2000 Arvid Carlsson
Arvid Carlsson
/ Paul Greengard
Paul Greengard
/ Eric Kandel


2001 Leland H. Hartwell / Tim Hunt
Tim Hunt
/ Paul Nurse 2002 Sydney Brenner
Sydney Brenner
/ H. Robert Horvitz / John E. Sulston 2003 Paul Lauterbur
Paul Lauterbur
/ Peter Mansfield 2004 Richard Axel
Richard Axel
/ Linda B. Buck 2005 Barry Marshall
Barry Marshall
/ Robin Warren 2006 Andrew Fire / Craig Mello 2007 Mario Capecchi
Mario Capecchi
/ Martin Evans
Martin Evans
/ Oliver Smithies 2008 Harald zur Hausen
Harald zur Hausen
/ Luc Montagnier
Luc Montagnier
/ Françoise Barré-Sinoussi 2009 Elizabeth Blackburn
Elizabeth Blackburn
/ Carol W. Greider
Carol W. Greider
/ Jack W. Szostak 2010 Robert G. Edwards 2011 Bruce Beutler
Bruce Beutler
/ Jules A. Hoffmann / Ralph M. Steinman (posthumously) 2012 John B. Gurdon
John B. Gurdon
/ Shinya Yamanaka 2013 James Rothman
James Rothman
/ Randy Schekman
Randy Schekman
/ Thomas C. Südhof 2014 John O'Keefe / May-Britt Moser
May-Britt Moser
/ Edvard Moser 2015 William C. Campbell / Satoshi Ōmura
Satoshi Ōmura
/ Tu Youyou 2016 Yoshinori Ohsumi 2017 Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash, Michael W. Young

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 39537715 LCCN: n86820333 ISNI: 0000 0000 8118 6732 GND: 118557424 SELIBR: 191625 SUDOC: 050468340 BNF: cb13531298d (data) HDS: 41190 NDL: 01125