In 1954, immunologist Niels Jerne put forward a theory which stated that there is already a vast array of lymphocytes in the body prior to any infection. The entrance of an antigen into the body results in the selection of only one type of lymphocyte to match it and produce a corresponding antibody to destroy the antigen.
This selection of only one type of lymphocyte results in it being cloned or reproduced by the body extensively to ensure there are enough antibodies produced to inhibit and prevent infection.
Australian immunologist Frank Macfarlane Burnet with input from David W. Talmage worked on this model, and was the first to name it "clonal selection theory." Burnet explained immunological memory as the cloning of two types of lymphocyte. One clone acts immediately to combat infection whilst the other is longer lasting, remaining in the immune system for a long time, which results in immunity to that antigen. In 1958, Sir Gustav Nossal and Joshua Lederberg showed that one B cell always produces only one antibody, which was the first evidence for clonal selection theory.
In 1949 Burnet proposed that under certain circumstances, tissues could be successfully transplanted into foreign recipients. This work has led to a much greater understanding of the immune system and also great advances in tissues transplantation. Burnet and Medawar shared the Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine in 1960.