"The body strikes back" - Landmarks of medical science

Only by the end of the 19th century, a fascinating finding began to prevail: The human body is a constant battlefield between the immune system and bacteria, viruses or parasites. Since this time, a lot happened in the medical sector. A time travel informs about the landmarks of medical science.

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Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel described a fundamental mechanism of the immune system in 1974. The immune system intervenes and destroys an infected cell only when a cell infected with a virus makes itself know as one of the body's own cells and, at the same time, presents information describing the pathogen.

User guide

The journey through the landmarks of medical science can be started by clicking on a date. An animation will be shown. For further information on this topic, please click on the doctor's book. To exit the animation, you have to click on the x-button.

Illustration: Penicillin

In 1928 Alexander Fleming discovered the antibiotic substance penicillin.

Survey of the milestones

  • 1796: Edward Jenner proved the effectiveness of a protective vaccination.
  • 1880: Charles L. Laveran and Ronald Ross discovered the cause of the dreaded malaria.
  • 1882: Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis pathogen.
  • 1884: Ilya I. Metschnikov made a surprising discovery: Certain white blood cells can devour and digest foreign objects.
  • 1885: Louis Pasteur found the first vaccine for the dangerous rabies virus in 1885.
  • 1890: Emil von Behring found a means to combat diptheria.
  • 1895: Paul Ehrlich published the lateral chain theory, also known as the receptor theory.
  • 1898: Jules B. Bordet discovered a further important component of the immune system.
  • 1901: Karl Landsteiner discovered that there could be incompatibilities when blood was transfused from one person to another.
  • 1906: Clemens von Pirquet established the study of allergies.
  • 1928: Alexander Fleming found a mould which inhibited growth in a bacteria culture. He called the mould toxin penicillin.
  • 1937: Daniel Bovet found a means for treating anaphylactic shock, the most serious, life-threatening form of an allergic reaction.
  • 1949: Frank M. Burnet laid the cornerstone for an all-encompassing concept for the immune system. He postulated that the immune defence could distinguish between "foreign" and "own".
Illustration: BSE

It was clear to Stanley B. Prusiner that the brains of humans and animals were destroyed by prions which had under - gone pathological changes.

  • 1953: Peter B. Medawar was able to show that the greater the similarity of tissue properties between donor and recipient, the more likely a foreign organ is to be tolerated by the recipient.
  • 1954: Joseph E. Murray conducted the first succesful kidney transplant between identical twins.
  • 1954: Jonas E. Salk developed the first vaccine for poliomyelitis.
  • 1958: Jean Dausset discovered that all cells of a human being bear the same characteristic surface features.
  • 1967: Christiaan N. Barnard crossed into uncharted surgical territory with the first heart transplant on 3 December, 1967.
  • 1970: Jean F. Borel is regarded by most scientific publications as the discoverer of cyclosporin.
  • 1972: John F. Kerr coined the term apoptosis. This programmed cell death causes cell which are no longer needed to commit suicide and die for the benefit of the total organism.
  • 1974: Peter Doherty and Rolf Zinkernagel described a fundamental mechanism of the immune defence.
  • 1982: Stanley B. Prusiner went public with a daring theory. He claimed that a previously unknown pathogen was responsible for the new variant of the Creutzfeld-Jakob disease.
  • 1983: Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo discovered the cause of the immunodeficiency disease AIDS.
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