Immune History

  • Bacteria & Micro-organisms

    Bacteria and micro-organisms were observed for the first time under a microscope by Antonie Van Leeuwenhock. Originally referred to as ‘animalculus’, it was the start of the science of microbiology.
  • Local Healers expose Smallpox Blister

    While in Constantinople, Turkey, Lady Mary Wortley witnessed local healers expose individuals to the fluid of a smallpox blister. Referred to as innoculation, she observed the positive effect it had on protecting the native population from the effects of the disease. On her return to England her promotion of the procedure was met with resistance due to her being female and the procedure being seen as ‘Oriental’.
  • Smallpox Vaccine

    Edward Jenner conducted the first demonstration of the smallpox vaccine. Using material from sufferers of the cowpox disease, he innoculated patients and found that they become resistant to smallpox. He utilised a similar method to that promoted by Lady Mary Wortley, yet used a weaker strain of the disease. It was the first demonstration of cross immunity.
  • Childbirth Improvement

    Ignaz Semmelweis drastically reduced the deathrate of new mothers from child bed fever through the compulsory washing of physicians’ hands before childbirth. He theorised that medical practitioners carried infectious particles on their bodies. By enforcing a policy of washing hands in chlorine bleach solution he believed it would destroy the causal poisons that could be transmitted. The observation conflicted with the scientific and medical opinion of the time and was rejected by the medical com
  • Ernest Haeckel's Studies

    The documented observation of phagocytosis by phagocytes was written by Ernest Haeckel. His studies were in relation to establishing and maintaining organism ‘harmony’ rather than a part of host defence.
  • Antiseptics Treatments

    Joseph Lister provided the effective use of antiseptics in the treatment of wounds during war time. Building on the work of Louis Pasteur, Lister developed and tested the use of antiseptics (in the form of carbolic acid solution). The solution, when wiped on the wounds of patients, greatly reduced infections and cases of gangrene. He later ensured that hands and instruments were also washed in the solution before surgery.
  • Robert Koch"s Discovery

    Robert Koch showed for the first time that microbes can cause disease. He demonstrated the transfer of anthrax bacillus between cows.
  • The Germ theory of disease was confirmed

    Though hinted at and theorised for some time by a number of scientists, Louis Pasteur confirmed the ‘Germ Theory of disease’. Through a series of experiments that soundly supported the claim, he was able to convince most of Europe of the discovery.
  • Therapeutic Vaccination

    The concept of a therapeutic vaccination using a weakened artificially-generated form of the disease is introduced by Louis Pasteur. The term ‘vaccine’ was used in honour of the work conducted by Edward Jenner in the previous century. Pasteur developed vaccines for anthrax, rabies and chicken cholera.
  • The Cellular Theory was developed

    Elie Metchnikoff developed the cellular theory of immunity via the observation of phagocytosis by macrophages and microphages. Metchnikoff saw this as being the immune response in its entirety.
    Later it was established that the phagocytes were the second line of defence against infection in the immune response.
  • Koch Postulates

    Designed to establish the relationship between a microbe and a disease, the Koch postulates are developed by Robert Koch and Friedrich Loeffler. These postulates consisted of four criteria that enabled scientists to identify pathogens in the 19th century. Modern technology has rendered them unnecessary today.
  • Antibody Activity

    Emil von Behring and Katisato Shibasaburo demonstrated antibody activity by observing the production of chemicals in the blood of animals, that neutralised the toxins produced by a weakened dose of bacteria which they injected into the subject.