Proto-ideas of the network theory: antibody self-regulation, idiotypy, the brain analogy, and cybernetics


According to Ludwik Fleck, novel scientific knowledge, such as theories or factual connections, often originates from ideas that have been around for a long time1. The German term Uridee used by Fleck is only poorly translated as proto-idea or pre-idea. Fleck developed the notion of proto-idea using the Wassermann reaction as an example, which exploited alterations in the blood of syphilitic patients as a diagnostic principle. Changes in the composition of blood had been envisaged in relation to syphilis already in the middle ages, and were given names such as “befouled blood”, or “hot and thick blood” having a “poisonous” or a “mysteriously bad quality” and being in an “unnatural state”. Over the centuries many attempts were made to define theses changes in chemical or microscopic terms, all resulting in claims soon to be revealed as false. For example, in 1872 a Dr. Lustbader reported at a meeting of the society of physicians in Vienna the discovery of “syphilitic particles” in the blood of patients, a finding that was quickly retracted as non-specific. According to Fleck, the establishment of the Wassermann reaction was merely another attempt to verify the existence of chemical changes in syphilitic blood, this time successful, but with no more insight into the nature of the alterations than before1,2.


Network Theory Thought Style Myeloma Protein Variable Region Gene Normal Immunoglobulin 
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Further reading

  1. Eichmann K, Kindt TJ (1971) The inheritance of individual antigenic specificities of rabbit antibodies to streptococcal carbohydrates. J Exp Med 134: 532–552PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Eichmann K, Tung AS, Nisonoff A (1974) Linkage and rearrangement of genes encoding mouse immunoglobulin heavy chains. Nature 250: 509–511PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Penn GM, Kunkel HG, Grey HM (1970) Sharing of individual antigenic determinants between a gamma G and a gamma M protein in the same myeloma serum. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 135: 660–665PubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Natvig JG, Kunkel HG (1973) Human immunoglobulins: Classes, subclasses, genetic variants, and idiotypes. Adv Immunol 16: 1PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Oudin J (1956) The allotype of certain blood protein antigens. C R Hebd Seances Acad Sci 242: 2606–2608 (in French)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Oudin J (1960) Allotypes of certain serum protein antigens. Immuno-chemical and genetic relationships between 6 principal allotypes observed in rabbit serum. C R Hebd Seances Acad Sci 250: 770–772 (in French)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Oudin J, Michel M (1969) On the idiotypic specificity of rabbit anti-S. typhi antibodies. C R Acad Sci Hebd Seances Acad Sci D 268: 230–233 (in French)PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Eichmann K (1978) Expression and function of idiotypes of lymphocytes. Adv Immunol 26: 195–254PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

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