Elected F.R.S. 1984
In his career James Howard personified the great expansion of immunology that took place in the decades after World War II. Trained as a pathologist and microbiologist—the subjects from which immunology sprang—he became a pioneer of the newly independent subject. He belongs among scientists fortunate enough to participate in the flowering of cellular immunology, a group that includes James Gowans, F.R.S., Morton Simonsen, George Mackaness, F.R.S., Ita Askonas, F.R.S., Leslie Brent, Michael Feldman, Michael Sela and Baruch Benacerraf (and myself). We looked up to Peter Medawar, F.R.S., Peter Gorer, F.R.S., Macfarlane Burnet, F.R.S., and (later) Niels Jerne, F.R.S. We were all good friends, very well aware of one another's strengths and weaknesses, and not slow to compete. Within the group, Howard's specialty lay in the connection between infection and immunity. We started when little was known beyond the fact that the body reacted to invasion by making antibodies against foreign agents: the concept of an immune system hardly existed. When we finished, the half–dozen main types of cell that make up the system had been sorted out, and the subtle interactions between them were largely understood. How the system avoided turning on the body that housed it was understood, and the occasional failure to do so–autoimmune disease–had been delineated. The main features of its genetics had fallen into place, and the system was ready for the application of the molecular genetics that followed. Some of these advances were already being applied to medicine, and others were on the way. Examples include organ transplantation, treatments of autoimmune disease, and the ‘sunburst’ vaccines against childhood infections. James Howard took great pleasure in these achievements, and not just for the considerable part that he himself played. Although he was a man exceptionally well provided with other sources of pleasure, none of his friends was in any doubt that this was his greatest.