50th Anniversary

This would be the perfect time to ask something like ” how old is this flow cytometry stuff”. This month sees the 50 years anniversary of the first publication on cell sorting by Mack Fulwyler (Science 1965) and a first description of a Spectrophotometer for ultrarapid cell analysis by Louis Kamentsky and Myron Melamed (Science 1965). And it is also amazing to see, that the technical fundamentals did not change that much over time. Gold Jubilee.

Mack Fulwyler in his own words (Cytometry 2005)

WHY DID YOU INVENT THE CELL SORTER?
. . .It arose from less admirable motivation. . . . When I first went to Los Alamos to work under Marvin Van Dilla, our primary interest was in monitoring the fallout from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing, that fallout appearing in meat, milk, and other food products.
With the arrival of the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty, the appearance of radioactive fallout in the diet and in humans diminished, so we had much less to do in terms of monitoring fallout. So our group, which consisted of four individuals, three physicists, and a physical chemist, looked around to see what we could do to assist the biologists who were the other 60-some people of the group. What he meant by assisting the biologist is, that somebody identified an abnormal cell population and was not quite sure what it was. So Mack Fulwyler constructed the cell sorter during his PhD thesis, based on the idea of the ink jet printer, physically separated these cells and demonstrated that this cell population was an artefact. Simple and can go out as remark to todays PhD students.

And there were biologists around at that time, like  Len Herzenberg(PNAS-2013), that recognised the potential of this technique for immunological questions and that made flow cytometry the unparalleld hight throughput, high content, single cell analysis technology (Science 2015), that it still is today. But thats another story.