I recently reflected on the broader context of Hašek’s contribution to the discovery of immunologic tolerance (1). In that article, I reviewed the influence of the Lysenkoist genetic dogma, Hašek’s motivations and experimental ingenuity, his brinkmanship between scientific interpretations and political “correctness,” and his influence on immunology by building a strong research “stable” in Prague, from which a number of his disciples had disseminated around the world. Here, I restrict this brief commentary to my perceptions while translating the original article from 1953. Having spontaneously accepted John Fabre’s impromptu invitation to translate Hašek’s article, it felt motivating to enable readers worldwide to read this article for the first time. This is paradoxical, considering that the experiments reported in this article as well as Hašek’s name had been widely known, at least between the scientists of his generation who were involved in the field of transplantation biology and immunologic tolerance. This outcome clearly demonstrates that discoveries of importance can reach wide publicity and recognition without the extra boost from being printed on the pages of a high-impact journal. This case history emphasizes, however, the importance of verbal presentation of research and informal contact with colleagues at conferences, when the speaker is of Hašek’s strong personality.
Translating the text compelled me to its first in-depth reading and at times I felt concerned about whether access to the original article would add or detract from the perceptions of those who remember the early stages of research on immunologic tolerance and also those of the younger scientists who were already trained to the high standards of current research communications. Nevertheless, the article remains of great interest for the way it illustrates the political context of that period (eg, aiding Soviet ideas on agriculture and fighting “bourgeois” genetic theories of the Weissmanist-Morganists) and for its meticulous way of describing some details of the experimental methodology and design. Accommodating this enormously wide scope must have been quite a challenge for the intellect. The reader will need to search for the pearls of the crucial immunologic discovery between ballasting data on body weights (eg, “tug of body weight” between the duck and chick parabiotic partners) and also for the succinct, but remarkably accurate, description of the key findings on tolerance, apart from the farfetched lip service to Soviet dogmas of that period. Note the detachment between the political “spin” in the introduction and discussion (ie, Darwin, Pavlov, Lysenko, Lepeshinska, and Engels all put together!) when compared with the accurate description of methods and experimental results. Paragraph 5 of the Summary shows also Hašek’s in-depth thinking on the interpretation of his immunologic results.
1. Ivanyi J. Milan Hašek and the discovery of immunological tolerance. Nat Rev Immunol 2003; 3: 591–597.