This review describes the building and scientific activity of the Immunology Department at the Institute for Genetics in Cologne, cofounded by Max Delbrück in post–World War II Germany. The protagonist, a child of Russian emigrants, became interested in antibodies as a postdoc at the Pasteur Institute in Paris and a proponent of the antigen-bridge model of T-B cell collaboration during his early time in Cologne. He was challenged by the gap between cellular immunology and molecular genetics and profited from the advances of the latter as well as postwar economic growth in Germany. The Immunology Department became a place, and little universe in itself, where young scientists from all over the world came together to study cellular and molecular mechanisms of antibody formation. This included work on normal and malignant B cells in the human, particularly the origin of Hodgkin lymphoma, but the main focus was on B cell development and homeostasis, the germinal center reaction, and immunological memory, developing recombinase-assisted and conditional gene targeting in mice as a main technical tool.


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