TIME

After cancer took his mother, James Allison taught our immune systems how to fight it

HERE ONCE WAS A BOY IN ALICE, TEXAS, WHO saw things a little differently from everybody else. Influenced by his father, a “country” doctor, he was drawn to science instead of football and conducted biology experiments in his parents’ garage. When he was 10, someone gave him a harmonica, but he never took a lesson or learned to read music, so he wandered the woods mimicking what he’d heard on the radio. A year after that, his mother died following a long struggle with lymphoma. What he still remembers decades later are her last, bedridden days when he spent hours holding her hand, and the burns singed on her neck from the then rudimentary radiation treatments. He would lose two uncles as a teen and later his brother to different

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