Angelo M DiGeorge

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 09 December 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b5379
  1. Ned Stafford

    Paediatric endocrinologist who discovered the role of the thymus gland in human immunological function

    Angelo DiGeorge was growing more and more excited as he listened to Max Cooper describe “a new concept of the cellular basis of immunity.” DiGeorge, a paediatric endocrinologist in Philadelphia at St Christopher’s Hospital and Temple University School of Medicine, was listening from the audience of the 1965 meeting of the US Society for Pediatric Research.

    Dr Cooper was reporting “experimental evidence” that indicated that the lymphoid system is composed of two distinct cell populations, each with a separate embryological origin and different morphological and functional characteristics. But his evidence was based primarily on research in chickens, not humans. When Dr Cooper showed that he and his University of Minnesota colleagues thought a dual immune system also existed in mammals, the scepticism emanating from the audience was palpable, recalls Dr Cooper, now at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

    “It was not a very Darwinian audience,” he said. Audience members tittered when the questioner approached the microphone and quipped that caution was called for when trying to compare the immune systems of chickens with humans.

    DiGeorge was not laughing. When the first questioner finished, he …

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