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JEM’s 125th Anniversary: Over a Century of Novel Conceptual Insights

Since its inception in 1896, Journal of Experimental Medicine (JEM) has been a leader in publishing outstanding and enduring studies in medical biology and has greatly contributed to the fields of immunology, cancer biology, vascular biology, microbial pathogenesis, neuroscience, and stem cell biology. It was conceived 125 years ago with the aim of presenting different areas of medical investigation together so that readers could identify common threads in their methods, problems, and purposes. And today, as other publishers establish topic-specific journals, JEM remains faithful to its broad scope and continues to offer a distinguished venue for publication of studies that integrate disciplines within the field of disease pathogenesis.

We are thrilled to celebrate this incredible milestone with anniversary content throughout the year, some of which will be published in our regular issues, and all of which will be curated here. Readers will learn from award-winning JEM authors whose contributions have dramatically changed the immunology field or given rise to new areas of research, see how methods and techniques have evolved since the journal’s founding, and read personal stories from researchers who built their careers on an initial, groundbreaking JEM study. As we look back at the scientific achievements of the past 125 years, we will also be announcing new initiatives that contribute to the future of the fields covered in JEM.

We are extremely grateful to our editors and reviewers, who have contributed to the strength of JEM’s purpose, to our authors for submitting their best research to JEM, and to you, our readers, for your continuous interest in the journal. We hope you will join us during this exceptional year of celebrations and help us commemorate JEM’s 125th anniversary. Throughout the year, we encourage your feedback with the hashtag #JEM125 or email us at jem@rockefeller.edu. Sign up for special collections and announcements here.

Animation by Yuko Tonohira



William H. Welch (ca. 1915) and Simon Flexner (ca. 1930). Welch photo by Bachrach, courtesy of Alan Mason Chesney Medical Archives of the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. Flexner photo courtesy of the Rockefeller Archive Center.

Origin of JEM

“The need of an American journal devoted especially to the publication of original contributions to the medical sciences has been keenly felt for some time.”—William H. Welch

JEM was founded in 1896 at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine by William Welch, the school’s founder and also the first president of the Board of Scientific Directors of The Rockefeller Institute in New York. From its inception, Welch edited the journal by himself—even editing manuscripts while attending baseball games—and he eventually found that it placed too heavy a burden on his time. By March 1902, the editorial burden became too great for Welch, who stopped publishing papers and began stockpiling manuscripts and unanswered correspondence in his office, explaining the conspicuous absence of published papers from 1902 to 1904.

In October 1902, Welch appealed to the board of The Rockefeller Institute to take over the journal. The transfer of ownership and publication responsibilities required the physical transfer of manuscripts from Welch’s office, a duty that fell to the director of The Rockefeller Institute, Simon Flexner, who carried the abandoned manuscripts from Baltimore to New York in a suitcase.

The first issue of JEM published by The Rockefeller Institute appeared in February 1905, with Flexner serving as editor, and the journal has been published regularly since then. Although the journal was adopted by The Rockefeller Institute as a venue for publication of the Institute’s own research, it also accepted submissions from outside. Even in the early years, more than half of the papers published in the journal came from external labs.

Read “The Journal of Experimental Medicine: Introduction,” the journal’s first editorial written by William H. Welch.



Allergic immune responses in lungs of mice, as reported in Chen et al.

Five Most Highly Cited Articles in JEM

Efficient presentation of soluble antigen by cultured human dendritic cells is maintained by granulocyte/macrophage colony-stimulating factor plus interleukin 4 and downregulated by tumor necrosis factor alpha
F Sallusto, A Lanzavecchia
J Exp Med (1994) 179 (4): 1109–1118. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.179.4.1109
Citations as of December 2020: 4,242

Plaque formation and isolation of pure lines with poliomyelitis viruses
R. Dulbecco, Marguerite Vogt
J Exp Med (1954) 99 (2): 167–182. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.99.2.167
Citations as of December 2020: 4,221

A study of fixation for electron microscopy
G. E. Palade
J Exp Med (1952) 95 (3): 285–298. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.95.3.285
Citations as of December 2020: 3,458

Surface markers on human T and B lymphocytes: I. A large population of lymphocytes forming nonimmune rosettes with sheep red blood cells
M. Jondal, G. Holm, H. Wigzell
J Exp Med (1972) 136 (2): 207–215. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.136.2.207
Citations as of December 2020: 3,305

Conversion of Peripheral CD4+CD25− Naive T Cells to CD4+CD25+ Regulatory T Cells by TGF-β Induction of Transcription Factor Foxp3
WanJun Chen, Wenwen Jin, Neil Hardegen, Ke-jian Lei, Li Li, Nancy Marinos, George McGrady, Sharon M. Wahl
J Exp Med (2003) 198 (12): 1875–1886. https://doi.org/10.1084/jem.20030152
Citations as of December 2020: 3,245

Citation data gathered from Web of Science Core Collection, Clarivate.

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