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WAO Medical Book Review

Posted: April 2013

A History of Immunology, Second Edition
By Arthur M Silverstein
2009 Elsevier
ISBN: 9780123705860

List Price: $110.00 hardcover, ebook $106.95
Available from Elsevier

Tara F Carr, MD
Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine
Director, Adult Allergy/Immunology Program
Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine
University of Arizona Health Sciences Center

As indicated on its jacket, A History of Immunology, Second Edition, provides “unparalleled insight” into the concept of immunity and development of the field of Immunology.

The purpose of this book is to provide a readable history of immunology which not only focuses on the conceptual developments in the field, but addresses, as the author states, “the important contributions  …of sociological factors to the development of the science” including the role of government, technology, and related disciplines.

The book is appropriate for immunologists, other scientists, history enthusiasts, and any other reader with an interest in scientific history.

The second edition is divided into 2 sections. Part 1 addresses the timeline of the scientific discoveries important to the field of immunology, ranging from the ancient development of an understanding of “infection” to the more modern landmark immunological observations and discoveries. It further describes how preconceived notions within this scientific field and the use of modern technology each impacted the perception of protective immunity, autoimmunity, allergy, and the subsequent expansion of those subdisciplines.

Part 2 focuses on the societal impact of these scientific advances; for example, detailing the difficulties affecting the attempted initiation of a vaccination program in Europe, and exploring the implications of rivalry among the physicians and scientists of the field.

A History of Immunology, Second Edition has been thoroughly researched and meticulously documented, and is written with an energetic voice. It gives important perspective to our modern achievements and encourages us to reflect upon the lessons of our predecessors as we continue to pursue an understanding of immunology.