Discovering the origins of immunological competence

Annu Rev Immunol. 1999;17:1-17. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.17.1.1.


Work done in the late 1950s and in the 1960s revealed the role of the thymus in virus-induced leukemia in mice. Thymectomizing mice at birth to test whether the virus first multiplied in thymus tissue and then spread elsewhere ultimately led to the conclusion that the thymus was essential to the normal development of the immune system. Subsequent testing to try to understand how the thymus contributes to the pool of immunocompetent lymphocytes opened a new chapter in immunology and required a reappraisal of many immunological phenomena and an understanding of the molecular interactions that take place during cell-to-cell interactions.

Publication types

  • Autobiography
  • Biography
  • Historical Article
  • Portrait
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Allergy and Immunology / history*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Australia
  • B-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • History, 20th Century
  • Immunocompetence*
  • Leukemia, Experimental / history
  • Leukemia, Experimental / immunology
  • Mice
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Thymectomy
  • Thymus Gland / immunology
  • Thymus Gland / transplantation

Personal name as subject

  • J F Miller