The network collective: Rise and fall of a scientific paradigm

Klaus Eichmann, Oswald T. Avery, David Baltimore, Emil Von Behring, Baruj Benacerraf, David Bloor, Jules J B V Bordet, Constantin A. Bona, Edward A. Boyse, F. Macfarlane Burnet, Harvey Cantor, Pierre A. Cazenave, Henry N. Claman, Melvin Cohn, Antonio Coutinho, Mark M. Davis, Francis H. Crick, Theodosius G. Dobzhansky, Peter C. Doherty, Umberto EcoGerald M. Edelman, Paul Ehrlich, Paul Feyerabend, Ludwik Fleck, Joan Fujimura, Richard K. Gershon, Ronald N. Germain, James L. Gowans, Mark I. Greene, Ian Hacking, Felix Haurowitz, Pekka Häyry, Michael Heidelberger, Leonard N. Herzenberg, Norbert Hilschmann, Geoffrey W. Hoffmann, Leroy Hood, Kurt Hübner, David Hume, Charles A. Janeway, Cristina Joao, Niels Jerne, Elvin A. Kabat, Michel D. Kazatchkine, Shibasaburo Kitasato, Karin Knorr-Cetina, Georges J F Köhler, Heinz Köhler, Hilary Koprowski, Thomas S. Kuhn, Henry G. Kunkel, Imre Lakatos, Karl Landsteiner, Bruno Latour, Larry Laudan, Joshua Lederberg, Ronald Levy, Tak W. Mak, Philippa C. Marrack, John J. Marchalonis, Polly C E Matzinger, Hugh O. McDevitt, Peter B. Medawar, Jaques F A Miller, Cesar Milstein, N. Avrion Mitchison, Göran Möller, Alfred Nisonoff, Gustav J V Nossal, Susumu Ohno, Jacques Oudin, William E. Paul, Linus C. Pauling, Karl R. Popper, Rodney R. Porter, Michael Potter, Willard V O Quine, Martin Raff, Klaus Rajewsky, Hans Reichenbach, Scott L. Rodkey, Michael Sela, Eli E. Sercarz, Morton Simonsen, Alan Sokal, Tomio Tada, David W. Talmage, Arne W K Tiselius, Susumu Tonegawa, Thure Von Uexküll, Emil R. Unanue, Jonathan W. Uhr, Jacques Urbain, Francisco J. Varela, Nelson M. Vaz, James D. Watson, Norbert Wiener, Hans Wigzell, Rolf M. Zinkernagel

Research output: Book/ReportBook

25 Scopus citations


First-hand account of the rise and fall of a scientific paradigm Shows how scientific fiction turns to fact Highlights the origin of scientific hype Includes interviews with prominent scientists The network paradigm dominated immunological research from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. The originator, Niels Jerne, hypothesized that the vast diversity of antibodies in each individual forms a network of mutual "idiotypic" recognition, thus regulating the immune system. In context of emerging concepts of systems biology such as cybernetics and autopoesis, the "Eigenbehavior" of the immune system fascinated an entire generation of young immunologists. But fascination led to experimental errors and overinterpretation, eventually magnifying the immune system from a mere infection-fighting device to a substrate of personality and individuality. As a result, what initially appeared as an exciting new perspective of the immune system is now viewed as a scientific vagary, and is largely abandoned. The author, himself a participant in the network vagary, begins with a description of the leading theoretical concepts on fact finding in science. This is followed by a historical account of the rise and fall of the network paradigm, complemented by personal interviews with some of the prominent protagonists. By comparing the network paradigm to other, more lasting concepts in life science, the author develops a general perspective on how solid knowledge is derived from error-prone scientific methodology, namely by exposure of scientific notions to the scrutiny of reality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherBirkhauser Verlag AG
Number of pages274
ISBN (Print)9783764383732, 9783764383725
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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