Blood’s 70th anniversary: a rich history

Bob Löwenberg

Blood, The Journal of Hematology, was launched soon after the end of World War II. Hematology as a distinct discipline was then at an embryonic stage of development. When the first issue of Blood appeared in 1946, George R. Minot, pernicious anemia researcher and Nobel Laureate, wrote in a preface:Much knowledge and progressive interest has developed concerning the blood and its disorders in the past century, so that now one may feel that a medical journal in English devoted to this subject is appropriate ... This journal should tell the reader of recent advances in the field of the blood and clarify those issues about which there is confusion.1

He then projected a broad scope for the Journal, covering the span of basic and clinical hematology.

In 2016, Blood is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The essentials of Dr Minot’s historical statements have held up until today. Over the 7 decades of its publication, Blood has offered its readers up-to-date original research articles and scientific and educational review articles from virtually every corner of the field of hematology. In his day, Dr Minot was unable to foresee how miraculously the field would evolve. When Blood was first conceived and established, the fields of cytogenetics, molecular hematology, gene mutations, cloning of peptides, stem cells, growth factors, receptors, microenvironment, HLA blood groups, transplants, and modern clinical trials were entirely unknown territories.

Blood has been a kaleidoscopic mirror of the remarkable developments of hematologic science. Over the past 70 years, it has offered a podium for the biological, technical, diagnostic, and therapeutic discoveries in hematology and broadly communicated scientific milestones to the outside world. It has consistently covered scientific domains that range from stem cell, red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet biology to the pathobiology, diagnosis, and treatment of a fascinating variety of malignant and benign diseases of the blood. Accordingly, the Journal has fulfilled a key intermediary role in the advancement of science and medical care. Over time, it has also become a progressively smarter “messenger” with digital dissemination of its content and with an increasingly prominent international presence throughout the world.

During these 70 years, Blood has published numerous landmark papers that highlight pivotal developments in biomedical science and clinical care. Consider for instance the scientific developments in the treatment of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) that transformed a disease with an invariably bad outcome into a “favorable” form of leukemia. The initial recognition of durable therapeutic responses of APL to the drug daunorubicin2; the subsequent discovery of the exquisite sensitivity of APL to the targeted therapeutic agent all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA)3; the randomized prospective trial establishing ATRA in combination with chemotherapy as a standard of care4; the discovery of the unique therapeutic effects of arsenic trioxide5; and, finally, as a climax of this sequence of clinical breakthroughs, the launch of an entirely chemotherapy-free regimen (ATRA plus arsenic trioxide) in this aggressive malignant disease.6 These advances have come to us in reports through the pages of Blood. Throughout the anniversary year, each weekly issue of Blood will feature a “Flashback” to one historical article published in the early era between 1946 and 1990 that marks a seminal development in the field. The first Blood Flashback can be found on page 2531 of this issue.

We owe gratitude to the pioneers who had the vision to launch a hematology journal at a time when the need was far from obvious. Who were those visionary individuals who founded Blood? Dr William Dameshek, a hematologist at Tufts University (Boston, MA) and the first Editor of the Journal, and Mr Henry Stratton representing Grune & Stratton, the first publishing house of Blood, teamed up in a remarkable collaborative effort to establish a journal of hematology. They were instrumental in turning the launch of the Journal into an instantaneous success. The “baby journal” Blood then matured to adolescence and adulthood. At its 30th anniversary, in 1976, the Journal became the official publication of the American Society of Hematology (ASH) with changes in its appearance and its editorial management. In 2000, at Blood’s 54th anniversary, the Journal was transferred from its commercial publisher (W. B. Saunders at that time) to ASH, the current publisher.

While other journals publishing in hematology have come and gone, Blood has held to its initial mission of representing hematology in its full breadth and serving its readers by publishing scientifically and medically relevant content of high quality. Blood began as a bimonthly publication, but by 1948 it changed to a monthly issue and in 1990 it progressed to publishing 2 issues a month. Some years ago (2009), keeping pace with the increasing volume of emerging outstanding scientific information, Blood became a weekly publication that disseminates the newest knowledge to its readers as expeditiously as possible in both print and electronic media.

Dr Barry S. Coller, professor at The Rockefeller University (New York, NY) and past President of ASH, kindly agreed to write a special piece about the early scientific advances that preceded the birth of Blood, shaped the field of hematology, and created the fertile ground on which Blood was seeded. Dr Coller places the birth of Blood in a historical context and he describes the role that the Blood Journal has played in our field. It is enlightening to read how closely the dynamic development of hematology has been paralleled by the evolution of the Journal. You can find his insightful perspective in the Blood Forum article “Blood at 70: its roots in the history of hematology and its birth” on page 2548 in this issue.

During its lifetime, Blood has had 11 Editors-in-Chief. We have invited 6 previous Editors-in-Chief to write an article about one (or a few) research article(s) that were published during the era of their Editorship which, in their opinion, have had a significant impact on hematology. Their unique successive experiences at Blood cover 30 years of the Journal’s recent history. We are grateful to Drs John W. Adamson, Arthur W. Nienhuis, James D. Griffin, Kenneth Kaushansky, Sanford J. Shattil, and Cynthia E. Dunbar for accepting this invitation. Their contributions will appear as Editorials throughout this anniversary year.

The current Editors and staff of the Journal are committed to continuing to build on the rich tradition of 70 years of publishing the best of hematology. Across the entire biomedical field, Blood today belongs to the top league of scientific journals and is currently ranked 16th among all biomedical journals (Eigenfactor, a measure of importance across scientific journals), confirming the impact that the field of hematology has on the breadth of biology and medicine.

Blood’s founding Editor, Dr William Dameshek, wrote in his inaugural Editorial:A journal making current hematologic material systematically available through one central source has become an actual necessity. Such a journal in the Western Hemisphere will therefore provide not only a clearinghouse designed expressly to answer the needs of a major professional group, but also a single vehicle assuring continuity in reporting on advances as they are made. Like its name, Blood, it is hoped that the new journal will have universal interest, and thus perhaps serve as a small factor in fostering better international understanding.7

Today, we feel we can confidently affirm that this hope has become a reality.


  • December 2015

  • Submitted October 6, 2015.
  • Accepted October 9, 2015.