Life: Its Nature and Origin

By Jerome Alexander | Go to book overview

Chapter 7
Immunology and Self-Saving Catalysts

Immunity itself must have begun with the development of the mechanism whereby organisms respond to the presence of infectious organisms by forming antibodies. But the science of immunology, which studies the extent, nature and mechanism of immunity, is of relatively recent development, and has been given extensive study by specialized groups of physicians, bacteriologists and chemists. As early as the 7th century A.D. person-to-person inoculation was used in China to protect against smallpox--a practice also known in Arabia. A full century before Jenner introduced vaccination in England, the Chinese were using cow- fleas, an insect carrier, to give a protective attack of cowpox.1 As a practical method, immunology dates from Louis Pasteur, who developed methods of protection against the dreaded anthrax and rabies by the use of weakened or attenuated infective agents. I reproduce here the signature of

As a small boy, he was the first person saved by Pasteur from rabies. This signature was obtained in 1926 at Institut Pasteur in Paris, where Meister was concierge, a living monument to the great chemist-bacteriologist-immunologist.

Since the precise chemical nature of the colloidal substances involved in immunological reactions was unknown, they were given names corresponding to their observable effects. The special nomenclature which developed is here outlined.

Substances are termed antigens if they can stimulate or cause a plant or animal to produce other substances, termed antibodies, which are able to react specifically with the inciting antigen. Time is required for the formation of the antibody, or immunization, as it is called; and an organism may inherit immunity to many antigens or may develop immunity to them, e.g., either by

-140-

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Life: Its Nature and Origin
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Preface iii
  • Introduction v
  • Contents x
  • Chapter 1 How Did Life Originate? 1
  • References 8
  • Chapter 2 the Smallest Particles of Matter 9
  • References 38
  • Chapter 3 How Molecules Make Masses 41
  • References 61
  • Chapter 4 the Importance of "Impurities" and Trace Substances 64
  • References 78
  • Chapter 5 What Are Living Units? 79
  • References 89
  • Chapter 6 Catalysis: the Guide of Life 90
  • References 136
  • Chapter 7 Immunology and Self-Saving Catalysts 140
  • References 152
  • Chapter 8 Genetics: the Heritable Transmission of Catalysts 154
  • References 177
  • Chapter 9 the Catalyst Entelechy in Differentiation and Morphogenesis 179
  • References 212
  • Chapter 10 Some Catalytic Aspects of Disease and Drugs 215
  • References 244
  • Chapter 11 Catalysis as the Efficient Cause of Evolution 246
  • References 257
  • Chapter 12 Philosophy, the Guide of Mental Life 259
  • References 275
  • Author's Note 277
  • Author Index 279
  • Subject Index 286
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