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Species and Specificity

Species and Specificity
An Interpretation of the History of Immunology

$74.99 (C)

  • Date Published: July 2002
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521525237

$ 74.99 (C)

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About the Authors
  • In the first hundred years of the history of immunology, the question of species and specificity were the core problems of research and practice in immunology. The old botanical dispute about the nature of species, which has its roots in the classical Western thought of Aristotle, reappeared in the late nineteenth century in the disputes of bacteriologists, to be followed by their students, the immunologists, immunochemists, and blood group geneticists. In the course of this controversy, Mazumdar argues, five generations of scientific protagonists make themselves aggressively plain. Their science is designed only in part to wrest an answer from nature: it is at least as important to wring an admission of defeat from their opponents. One of those on the losing side of the debate was the Austrian immunochemist Karl Landsteiner, whose unitarian views were excluded from the state health and medical institutions of Europe, where specificity and pluralism, the legacies of Robert Koch and Paul Ehrlich, were entrenched.

    • It is the first interpretative history of immunology to appear in English
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    Reviews & endorsements

    "The book is abundantly and well illustrated with many photographs...ends with an interesting exegesis on the rhesus (Rh) controversy." Fred S. Rosen, Nature

    "Mazumdar analyzes the philosophical controversy associated with immunology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries: whether immunology and by extension most life processes, represented a continuum between species, or whether each species was unique....An excellent, in-depth analysis." Choice

    "The book's argument is admirably clear and is never lost in the wealth of detail that flows from the author's obvious immersion in the sources....Mazumdar's thesis is an important and persuasive one that deserves serious attention from anyone interested in 19th- and 20th-century biology....[T]here is no doubt that readers will come away from this book with a livelier sense of the controversies that have helped shape modern biology, and of their connections across the generations." John E. Lesch, Science

    "Mazumdar has written a valuable history of specific ideas that gives little weight to contemporary continuities of social and intellectual response: her historiographic assumptions thus uncannily mirror Ehrilich's fixed structuralist specificities." Warwick Anderson, Isis

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    Product details

    • Date Published: July 2002
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521525237
    • length: 476 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 27 mm
    • weight: 0.69kg
    • contains: 65 b/w illus. 3 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Part I. Specificity and Unitarianism in XIX Century Botany and Bacteriology:
    1. The Unitarians
    2. The Linnaeans
    3. The dominance of specificity
    4. The history of XIX century bacteriology from this point of view
    Part II. The Inherited Controversy: Specificity and Unitarianism in Immunology:
    5. Dichotomy and classification in the thought of Paul Erlich
    6. Max von Gruber and Paul Erlich
    7. Max von Gruber and Karl Landsteiner
    8. Unity, simplicity, continuity: the philosophy of Ernst Mach
    Part III. Chemical Affinity and Immune Specificity: The Argument in Chemical Terms:
    9. Structural and physical chemistry in the late XIX century
    10. Erlich's chemistry and its opponents: the dissociation theory of Arrhenius and Madsen
    11. Erlich's chemistry and its opponents: the colloid theory of Landsteiner and Pauli
    12. Erlich's chemistry and its opponents: the new structural chemistry of Landsteiner and Pick
    13. The decline and persistence of Erlich's chemical theory
    Part IV. Absolute Specificity in Blood Group Genetics:
    14. Immunology and genetics in the early XX century
    15. The specificity of cells and the specificity of proteins
    16. The last confrontation

  • Author

    Pauline M. H. Mazumdar, University of Toronto

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