Historical Roots of Flow Cytometry

C. L. Goolsby*, W. P. Hansen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Flow cytometry is a high-speed technology by which single cells, cell aggregates, or small multicellular organisms in Liquid suspension can be classified and viably sorted at real-time rates well in excess of thousands per second. Cell classification by flow cytometry departs from automated microscopy in that cells are identified by a minimal set of scalar parameters without attempting to spatially resolve and analyze images. In flow cytometry, it is not unusual to use only 3 "5 numbers representing Light scatter intensity in specific directions, fluorescence at specific wavelengths, and the cellular electrical impedance as highly encompassing descriptors of a cell. This minimaLism simpLifies computing, enables rapid processing of tens of thousands of cells, and places cell classification on soLid statistical ground, even for rare cell types such as peripheral blood stem cells. We trace the development of multiparameter flow cytometry devices, computing, and cell analysis from a 1960s epicenter at IBM Watson Laboratories to the present day where it is an essential scientific and medical tool deployed worldwide. Flow cytometry is central to our understanding of cell-based immunity. Leukemia/lymphoma immunophenotyping and therapy rest upon flow cytometry. MilLions of HIV/AIDS victims in resource-challenged environments are Living longer through therapy management by flow cytometry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPathobiology of Human Disease
Subtitle of host publicationA Dynamic Encyclopedia of Disease Mechanisms
PublisherElsevier Inc
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780123864567
ISBN (Print)9780123864574
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Cell sorting
  • Flow cytometry
  • Hematopoietic maLignancy
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Multiparameter analysis
  • Therapeutic monitoring

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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