Skip to content
Fellows Directory

James Gowans

Sir James Gowans CBE FMedSci FRS

Fellow


Elected: 1963

Biography

Several times a day, enough lymphocytes enter the blood from major lymphatic trunks to replace all those already in circulation. James Gowans is the immunologist who solved the mystery of where these extra lymphocytes disappear to: after leaving the blood, they enter lymph nodes then pass again into the blood via lymphatic vessels. In fact, most lymphocytes are long-lived cells that recirculate between blood and lymph.

He subsequently showed that these small, apparently non-dividing cells react with antigens to initiate immune responses during which they enlarge, divide and differentiate into effectors. Recirculation provides a mechanism for selecting then directing lymphocytes of the correct specificity to lymphoid tissue in which antigen has localised.

James was a Royal Society Research Professor (1962–1977) and Secretary of the Medical Research Council (1977–1987). He holds numerous honorary doctorates, received the 1980 Wolf Prize in Medicine and is an Associate of the US Academy of Sciences. He was also Secretary General of the Human Frontier Science Program, which funds basic life sciences research. He was knighted in 1982.

Interests and expertise

Subject groups

Keywords

Immunology

Awards

  • Royal Medals

    In recognition of his distinguished research in the field of immunology, especially as regards the recirculation and immunological role of lymphocytes.

  • Wolf Prize

    In the field of medicine for their contributions to knowledge of the function and dysfunction of the body cells through their studies on the immunological role of the lymphocytes, the development of specific antibodies and the elucidation of mechanisms governing the control and differentiation of normal and cancer cells.