The ability to mount an immune defense against infectious microorganisms and their products, and against tumors is believed to be a direct function of lymphocyte diversity. Because the diversity of lymphocyte receptor genes is >1000-fold more diverse than the entire genome and varies between genetically identical individuals, measuring lymphocyte diversity has been a daunting challenge. We developed a novel technique for measuring lymphocyte diversity directly using gene chips. We reasoned and here demonstrate that the frequency of hybridization of nucleic acids coding for lymphocyte receptors to the oligonucleotides on a gene chip varies in direct proportion to diversity. We applied the technique to detect changes in lymphocyte diversity in mice with known B cell alterations and in persons with known T cell repertoire defects. This approach is the first to provide direct analysis of lymphocyte receptor diversity and should facilitate fundamental study of the adaptive immune system and clinical efforts to assess immunological diseases. In addition, this approach could be more broadly applied, for example to measure diversity of viral quasi-species.