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BSI at 60: Summary of Events

Regional and Affinity groups
Attendees at our 60th anniversary celebrations

On 11 October, the BSI marked its 60th anniversary. Back in 1956, a small group of hard working, visionary immunologists (including such names as John Humphrey, Bob White, Robin Coombs and Av Mitchison) decided they wanted to set up a group who could come together to share ideas and encourage the study of immunology. Thus, the British Society for Immunology was founded with an inaugural meeting held at the Wellcome Foundation.

Sixty years on, and another group of immunologists gathered, this time in the comfortable surroundings of the Royal Society, to hear about ‘The changing nature of research’ from the BSI’s current President, Peter Openshaw, Academy of Medical Sciences President Robert Lechler and University of Oxford’s Fiona Powrie, ably chaired by Adam Hart. We were delighted to see such a good turnout at our anniversary celebrations and so many familiar faces in the crowd of BSI members old and new.

Many stayed on to join us for a drinks reception afterwards, which saw a packed room of immunologists discussing the exciting possibilities raised for the future of immunology through the talks and raising their glasses to the next 60 years of the BSI. You can view photos from the event in our Flickr album.

Celebration of 60 years of British immunology

It was a night to remember. Over 200 people attended a special meeting at the Royal Society in London on 11 October to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the BSI. While there was no red carpet, it was a ‘Who’s Who’ of British immunologists. Entering the building of the Royal Society, a learned society for science and possibly the oldest such society in existence, there was speculation whether we were walking in the footsteps of Sir Isaac Newton, one of the earliest Fellows of the Royal Society, elected in 1672.

The evening kicked off with three superb talks by Professor Peter Openshaw, the BSI President, Professor Sir Robert Lechler and Professor Fiona Powrie. Each gave their own personal review of the history of immunology, the current status and the important issues still left to address for future immunologists. A common theme that ran through all the presentations was the involvement of the immune system in neurodegenerative diseases. As chair of the BSI’s Neuroimmunology Affinity Group, I was pleased that the work that we are doing is still considered to be a hot topic, yet with this comes great responsibility.

The talks were followed by drinks where old friends all remarked at what the BSI had achieved in the past 60 years and what we were hoping for in the next 60 years. Being in the company of several current fellows of the Society as well as posters detailing the achievements of many past immunologists, and of course the spirit of Newton, made for a very inspirational evening. We are all looking forward to the next 60 years!

Sandra Amor

BSI 60th anniversary report front cover60 years of immunology: past, present and future

To commemorate the BSI’s 60th anniversary, we have published a new report ‘60 years of immunology’ to celebrate the breadth and depth of immunological research in this country and beyond. This report discusses key areas where immunology has and will have a significant impact on our understanding of human and animal biology, our ability to treat and even cure common diseases and our capacity to deal with emerging threats on a global scale. In the current climate, we feel it’s important that we are able to engage with government, decision makers and funders to make the case for just how important immunological research is to the life sciences, patient care and the economy – and we hope this report will help us to do this. You can read the foreword by BSI President Peter Openshaw from this report, on the following pages. Otherwise you can download a free copy of the full report here. If you would like to receive a print copy, please email Jennie Evans at

Celebrating immunologists throughout our 60 year history

As part of our anniversary celebrations, the BSI has celebrated the contributions made to our discipline by outstanding immunologists throughout our 60-year history. We are featuring some of the key characters who led the way in ensuring that immunology is the broad reaching, innovative and exciting discipline that we know today. You can find more information on each of these people on our website, plus some highlights of their research that was published in BSI journals.


A history of immunology in 60 objects

Your nominations are in and counted and we now have a shortlist of 60 items, voted for by our membership, that you feel tell the tale of immunological research through the years.From Monday 5th December we will reveal a new object every day so that object by object, day by day, we take a tour through some of immunology's greatest achievements, learning more about the people, places, and things that have taken the discipline to where it is today.

For more please visit the 60 objects webpage. Think we've missed something? Let us know what you think using the hashtag #60objectsimmunology!


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