‘Milan Hašek and the discovery of immunological tolerance: an exclusive case of ideologisation in biology behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s’

hsmt seminars hilary term 2020 for website

Tomas Hermann (Charles University, Prague)

In 1960, Sir Peter B. Medawar was jointly with Sir Frank M. Burnet awarded a Nobel Prize for the discovery of acquired immune tolerance, which was made based on a key experiment conducted in 1953. In the same year, just several months earlier, a similar result was experimentally achieved by Milan Hašek (1925–1984), a young researcher, Medawar’s later colleague and friend, creator of an internationally important school of immunogenetics.  He and his team, however, worked in Communist Czechoslovakia and Hašek was then a fervent communist, adherent of Soviet Lysenkoism and so-called Michurinian biology. At first, he thus interpreted his discovery through the prism of his beliefs as an example of ‘vegetative hybridisation’ in animals. The story of Hašek’s error is a remarkable example of the role of ideology in science during the Stalinist era and on a more general level, it opens some questions regarding the function of scientific paradigm.


The following seminar will be held online with Zoom. For more information please visit: https://www.hsmt.ox.ac.uk/event/milan-hasek-and-discovery-immunological-tolerance


The History of Science, Medicine and Technology Seminar is convened by Erica Charters (Wolfson College), Rob Iliffe Linacre College), Catherine Jackson (Harris Manchester College), Rob Bailey (University of Oxford) and John Lidwell Durnin (Linacre College)