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Rudbeck’s Complaint–A 17th-Century Latin Letter Relating to Basic Immunology
Scandinavian Journal of Immunology (2007)
  • Charles T. Ambrose, University of Kentucky
Basic immunology can be said to have its origin in the mid-17th-century with the discovery of the peripheral lymphatics. They completed the gross anatomical picture of the lymphatic system, which is the basis for much of the immune response. Their recognition almost simultaneously by two Scandinavian anatomists led to a protracted war of words over priority of discovery, pitting a young Swedish medical student (Olof Rudbeck) against an honored Danish anatomy professor (Thomas Bartholin). In a 752-word letter in Latin, Rudbeck charged Bartholin with pre-dating a key observation, thereby giving priority of discovery to the latter. The purpose of this paper is to provide an English translation of this accusatory letter. It is a notable document in basic immunology, for it cites much of the knowledge then current in the field. And by raising the issue of priority, the letter indirectly piqued the interest of the scientific community in the lymphatic system and hastened its study. Examining the system's various functions in health and disease led to this new discipline.
  • Basic immunology,
  • Olof Rudbeck,
  • Thomas Bartholin
Publication Date
October, 2007
Citation Information
Charles T. Ambrose. "Rudbeck’s Complaint–A 17th-Century Latin Letter Relating to Basic Immunology" Scandinavian Journal of Immunology Vol. 66 Iss. 4 (2007) p. 486 - 493
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