Monday 9 November, 16:00 (BST) Online with Zoom
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Seminars in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology
Tomas Hermann (Charles University, Prague)
Milan Hašek and the discovery of immunological tolerance: an exclusive case of ideologisation in biology behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s
In 1960, Sir Peter B. Medawar was jointly with Sir Frank M. Burnet awarded a Nobel Prize for the discovery of acquired immune tolerance, which was made based on a key experiment conducted in 1953. In the same year, just several months earlier, a similar result was experimentally achieved by Milan Hašek (1925–1984), a young researcher, Medawar’s later colleague and friend, creator of an internationally important school of immunogenetics. He and his team, however, worked in Communist Czechoslovakia and Hašek was then a fervent communist, adherent of Soviet Lysenkoism and so-called Michurinian biology. At first, he thus interpreted his discovery through the prism of his beliefs as an example of ‘vegetative hybridisation’ in animals. The story of Hašek’s error is a remarkable example of the role of ideology in science during the Stalinist era and on a more general level, it opens some questions regarding the function of scientific paradigm.
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