Tag Archives: immunology

Now available: Catalogue of the Archive of Sir James Gowans

The Archive of the immunologist Sir James Gowans  (b.1924) is now available (online catalogue).

James Learmonth ‘Jim’ Gowans, after obtaining his medical degree from King’s College Hospital in 1947, came to Oxford on a Medical Research Council Studentship to work under Howard Florey, and was awarded a DPhil in 1953.

During the 1950s he did pioneering work on the life cycle of the lymphocyte, establishing that the small lymphocyte continuously recirculated from the blood to the lymph and back again, and that this cell was at the centre of immunological responses.
In 1962 he became Henry Dale Research Professor of the Royal Society at the Dunn School of Pathology, University of Oxford, and from 1963 he was also Director of the Medical Research Council’s Cellular Immunology Research Unit at the Dunn School.

In 1977 Gowans left his research career to become the Secretary of the Medical Research Council and during 10 years in office oversaw, or was involved with, a number of major projects and initiatives, notably the establishment of Celltech as a company to develop biotechnology research into commercial opportunities, folic acid trials to prevent the development of neural tube defects, the Rothschild proposals for the reorganisation of medical research funding in the UK, the setup of the Voluntary Licensing Authority for Human in-vitro Fertilization and Embryology, and MRC AIDS Directed Programme.
From 1989-1993 Gowans was the Secretary-General of the Human Frontier Science Program, Strasbourg.

Alongside his posts at the Medical Research Council and the Human Frontier Science Program, and after his retirement, Gowans was a consultant and advisor, non-executive director or trustee for a number of companies, organisations and charities, including the World Health Organization Programme on AIDS, 3i – Investment in Industries, the Tavistock Trust, the Charing Cross Sunley Research Centre, Synaptica, EICOS – European Initiative for Communicators of Science, St. Christopher’s Hospice, General Motors Cancer Research Foundation.
Amongst many awards he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1963, and knighted in 1982.

The archive mainly comprises professional and scientific correspondence, and related papers such as briefing papers and reports, relating to all stages of Gowans’s career, as well as general (personal) correspondence, papers relating to awards, honours and memberships, conferences and visits, publications, and selected photographs.

The material was catalogued with the generous support of Sir James Gowans.

Lecture slides of Rod Porter, immunologist

R.R. Porter

Rodney Robert Porter

Last year the Bodleian received over one hundred glass lantern slides, prepared by R.R. Porter to illustrate his work on the structure and nature of antibody molecules. Porter discovered the 4-chain structure of antibody molecules in 1962 when he was Professor of Immunology at the Wright-Fleming Institute at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School. He shared the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for this discovery in 1972 with Geoffrey Edelman who had proved that antibodies were multi-chain proteins. This ‘extremely important breakthrough in immunochemistry’ led to a greater understanding of the immune system. Porter spent the later part of his career at Oxford where he was the Whitley Professor of Biochemistry from 1967 until his death in 1985.

slide showing ‘behaviour of bovine-serum albumin (BSA) and inhibitor (I) on diffusion into antiserum in agar gel’

slide showing ‘behaviour of bovine-serum albumin (BSA) and inhibitor (I) on diffusion into antiserum in agar gel’


With the help of Dr. Myer Salaman of the Department of Immunology at St Mary’s Campus of the Imperial College School of Medicine, each slide has been carefully described and the full list is available via the Bodleian’s online catalogues.