Some Comments on Fleck’s Interpretation of the Bordet-Wassermann Reaction in View of Present Biochemical Knowledge

  • Bernard Zalc
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 87)


The core example chosen by Fleck to develop his concepts of the “genesis and development of scientific facts” is the serodiagnosis of syphilis known as the Wessermann reaction (in France and Belgium, this serological test is called the Bordet-Wassermann reaction to make the fact that Wassermann ’s contribution to this serodiagnosis was to apply to syphilis the experimental procedure of complement deviation set-up a few years earlier by Bordet and Gengou) [1, 2]. This immunological reaction, which is quite simple in its principles, turned out, when applied to the serodiagnosis of syphilis, to be extremely complex from the point of view of both its practical realization and its theoretical interpretation. Due to the socio-medical importance of the subject, this complexity had led to a tremendous volume of literature, which following Fleck’s own estimation amounted in 1934 to about ten thousand papers. Fleck concluded rightly: “There certainly cannot be many similar specialized problems which have had so many papers devoted to them” [3].


Mixed Micelle Complement Fixation Scientific Fact Complement Fixation Test Lipidic Antigen 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bernard Zalc
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratoire de NeurochimieHôpital de la SalpôtrièreParisFrance

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