HENRY G. KUNKEL

September 9, 1916–December 15, 1983


BY JACOB B. NATVIG AND J. DONALD CAPRA


HENRY G. KUNKEL WAS a true pioneer in immunology. During his lifetime, he led in an area of medicine and basic science that dates back to the turn of the twentieth century. His work placed him in the company of Emil von Behring, Ehrlich, Landsteiner, and other giants in the field. From the middle 1940s he was one of the world leaders in applying the fundamental scientific principles of immunology to clinical medicine, framing a field now termed clinical immunology. Early in his career he proposed that myeloma proteins could serve as models for normal immunoglobulins and antibodies. His intuition proved correct, and his work and the work of others that followed changed the course of immunology. He (and many of his trainees) used myeloma proteins to decipher the chain structure of immunoglobulins and antibodies. This chain structure allowed the definition of immunoglobulin classes, subclasses and genetic markers, which led to the first mapping of immunoglobulin genes to their respective chromosomes. His discoveries also reverberated through cellular immunology through his identification of major histocompatiblity complex (MHC) class II molecules as separate entities, and the genetic linkage of MHC classes I and II molecules with factors in the complement system. Thus, his work had enor-



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement