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Books, Journals, New Media
March 10, 2004

Niels Jerne

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(10):1267-1268. doi:10.1001/jama.291.10.1267

The life of Niels Kaj Jerne (1911-1994)—Nobel laureate, brilliant thinker, scientific theorist of genius, able administrator, citizen of Europe and the world—was far from troubled. Born into a well-to-do family, he lived fairly comfortably through the ravages of World War II, went unhurriedly and leisurely through his belated medical studies, landed a comfortable job at the prestigious Statens Seruminstitute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and there formulated his selection theory of antibody formation, which suddenly propelled him to international fame. Within a few years he became recognized among a small but rapidly growing elite of highly regarded immunologists. Despite his expensive lifestyle, he hardly ever had financial problems and always enjoyed the company of a loving and adoring woman (or two). Professionally, he never had to face the agonizing process of writing grant applications and arguing for more laboratory space. From reading the book, one might conclude that—contrary to the subtitle—Jerne led a reasonably happy, leisurely, and trouble-free life.

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