Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Nicolle was a French bacteriologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1903 for identifying lice as the transmission vector for epidemic typhus and by working out how tick fever is transmitted. He also helped discover the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis, a common infection that is usually harmless but can cause serious problems in some people. Nicolle also developed a vaccine for Malta fever, a disease now called brucellosis. 1866-09-21T00:00:00+0000Morgan is considered the father of the modern science of genetics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for demonstrating how genes carried on chromosomes are the mechanical basis of hereditary. This he determined based on some cross-breeding experiments with the fruit fly (Drosophila) that he conducted between 1908 and 1911. 1866-09-25T00:00:00+0000Fibiger published the first randomisation method for a clinical trial. The aim of the trial, conducted in 1898, was to investigate the effect of serum therapy on diphtheria. Fibiger would later go on to win the 1926 Nobel Prize for Medicine for demonstrating a roundworm could cause stomach cancer in rats and mice. Following his death researchers showed that the roundworm could not cause cancer and were due to vitamin deficiency and that Fibiger had mistakenly confused non-cancerous tumours for cancerous tumours in his experiments. 1867-04-23T00:00:00+0000Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, in 1903, and the first person to win it twice, in 1911. She developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes and discovered the two elements, polonium and radium. Curie also pioneered the use of radioactive isotopes to treat cancer and developed mobile radiography mobile unites to provide X-ray services in field hospitals during World War I. Throughout her life Curie experienced major challenges because of her sex. Denied a regular university education in Poland, her home country, because she was a woman, she had to study in France to get her degree. In 1903 the French Academy of Sciences tried to keep her name off its list of Nobel Prize nominees and the Swedish Academy of Sciences asked her not to attend the Nobel ceremony in 1911 because of negative publicity surrounding her personal life.1867-11-07T00:00:00+0000Landsteiner was an immunologist and pathologist who has been called the founder of transfusion medicine. In 1930 he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the main human blood types (A, B and O), published in 1901, and for his development of the ABO system of blood typing which enabled blood transfusion to become a safe medical procedure. In 1909 he also helped discover the microorganism responsible for poliovirus which provided the foundation for the development of the polio vaccine. He also discovered the Rh factor in 1940. This is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. This can cause problems in pregnancy for women with the Rh-negative blood group whose foetus has the Rh-positive blood group. 1868-06-14T00:00:00+0000Freidrich Miescher, Swiss physician and biologist, performing experiments on the chemical composition of white blood cells (leucocytes) isolates phosphate-rich chemicals from the nuclei of cells. Originally calling this substance nuclein, Miescher's discovery paved the way for the identification of what we today call nucleic acids and the understanding of DNA as the carrier of inheritance. 1869-01-01T00:00:00+0000A Russian-American biochemist, Levene discovered nucleic acids came in two forms: DNA and RNA. He also idenfitied the components of DNA: adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine, deoxyribose and a phosphate group and showed that these components were linked together by nucleotides, phosphate-sugar base units. Born to Jewish parents, Levene emigrated to the US in 1893 as a result of anti-semitic progroms. He was appointed the head of the biochemical laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in 1905 where he spent the rest of his career. 1869-02-25T00:00:00+0000Spemann was an experimental embryologist. He won the 1935 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering embryonic induction, the process that directs parts of an embryo to develop groups of cells into particular tissues and organs. This was based on work he carried out on large eggs of amphibians in the 1920s, which revealed the existence of an area in the embryo that was responsible for producing different parts of the embryo. Parts of the head are produced by the anterior parts of the area, and parts of the tail by the posterior parts. In 1928 he performed the first successful somatic cell nuclear transfer in amphibian embryos. It marked the first move towards cloning. 1869-06-27T00:00:00+0000McClung was a zoologist. He is best known for identifying the role of chromosomes in determining the sex of a species. This he did through a series of experiments with insects between 1901 and 1902. Based on his findings he hypothesised that the accessory chromosome (now known as chromosome X) could be the nuclear element that determined sex. It was the first time a scientist suggested that a given chromosome carried a set of hereditary traits. 1870-04-05T00:00:00+0000Bordet was a physician, immunologist and microbiologist who won the 1919 Nobel Prize for his discovery of two components in the blood - antibodies and complement proteins. The two component help destroy invading bacteria by rupturing the cell walls of the bacteria, a process known as bacteriolysis. Bordet made the discovery in 1895. Three years later Bordet observed that red blood cells from one animal species injected into another get destroyed by haemolysis - a process analogous to bacteriolysis. His finding led to the development of diagnostic tests that hunt for antibodies in the blood to detect infectious agents. The first one was for typhoid, developed in 1896.1870-06-13T00:00:00+0000Schaudinn was a zoologist and microbiologist, best known for helping to discover the bacterial cause of syphilis, in 1905. Prior to this research Schaudinn identified the unicellular parasite Entamoeba histolytica, the amoeba that causes dysentery and confirmed hook worm infections are contracted through skin on the feet. This he established through experiments with monkeys. In addition Schuadinn made important discoveries relating to sleeping sickness and malaria. Schaudinn died at the age of 34 following surgery to remove a gastrointestinal abscess, probably caused by an amoebian infection he voluntary acquired while doing research on amoebas.1871-09-19T00:00:00+0000Mendel was a biochemist who helped discover vitamins A and B, lysine and tryptophan and their role in nutrition. Vitamin A was discovered in 1913 in butter fat. Diets deficient in vitamin A were shown to cause xerophthalmia, a condition in which the eye fails to produce tears. Water-soluble vitamin B was also found in milk in 1913.1872-02-05T00:00:00+0000Euler-Chelpin was a Geman-born Swedish biochemist who shared the Nobel Prize in 1929 for working out the role of enzymes in the fermentation of sugar. His work laid the foundation for understanding the important processes that take place in the muscles for supplying energy. He also helped show that colouring agents like betacaronoids in vegetables get transformed into vitamin A in the body. 1873-02-15T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages (phages), viruses that infect bacteria that are now major tools in biotechnology. He isolated the first phage from chicken faeces in 1919. Following this he successfully treated chicken affected by a plague of typhus with the phage and in August 1919 cured a patient with dysentery using the same method. This laid the basis for the development of phage therapy. 1873-04-25T00:00:00+0000Berger was a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed the first electroencephalogram (EEG) in 1924 for recording brain wave patterns. His technique involved the insertion of silver wires under the patient's scalp, one at the front and one at the back of the head. Berger's innovation was a historic breakthrough, providing an important neurological and psychological tool. Using the EEG Berger was the first to describe different waves or rhythms in the normal and abnormal brain. Many of his German peers, however, did not recognise the significance of his work. Despite gaining international recognition, the Nazi regime forced Berger into early retirement at the age of 65 and banned him from any further work on the EEG. 1873-05-21T00:00:00+0000Loewi was a pharmacologist and physician. He is credited with the discovery of the first neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the brain. His work provided the first evidence that chemicals were involved in the transmission of impulses between nerve cells and from neurons to the responsive organ. He established this through investigations of the frog. Loewi was awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work. 1873-06-03T00:00:00+0000Carrel was a surgeon and biologist. Inspired by lessons he took from from an embroideress, he developed new techniques for suturing blood vessels that minimised damage to the vascular wall. He was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of 'his work on vascular structure and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs'. During World War I he helped develop a new method for treating wounds based on chlorine, which was a major advance in the care of traumatic wounds. In the 1930s he helped create a glass perfusion pump, a forerunner to the artificial heart. His reputation later became marred in controversy because of his strong support for Eugenic policies of sterilisation for those with families with hereditary diseases and a criminal history as well euthanasia for the mentally defective. In 1944 he was singled out for collaboration with the Nazis under the Vichy government, but he died before going on trial. 1873-06-28T00:00:00+0000Erlanger was a physiologist who shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine with Herbert Graasser for working out the actions of nerve fibers. This they achieved by modifying a Western Electric oscilloscope to run at low voltages. The innovation enabled them to discover that neurons come in many forms and transmit impulses at different rates. 1874-01-05T00:00:00+0000Weizmann trained in biochemistry and went on to become an internationally renowned organic chemist who specialised in the development of dyestuffs and aromatics. He developed the method to produce acetone, a vital component for explosives, using bacteria and fermentation during World War I. Weizmann later modified his technique to produce other organic compounds using bacteria during fermentation. In the 1930s Weizmann laid the foundations for the Daniel Sieff Research Institute in Rehovot, which later became the Weizmann Institute. He went on to become the first President of Israel.1874-11-17T00:00:00+0000Dale was a pharmacologist and physiologist who helped identify acetylcholine, the first neurotransmitter discovered, in 1914. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1936 on the basis of this work and uncovering the chemical process by which nerve impulses are transmitted. During the 1940s he drew up a scheme to differentiate neurons according to the neurotransmitters they release. 1875-06-09T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
21 Sep 1866Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, FranceNicolle Vaccine
25 Sep 1866Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in Lexington KY, USAMorganColumbia University, California Institute of TechnologyGenetics
23 Apr 1867Johannes A G Fibiger was born in Silkeborg, DenmarkFibigerSilkeborg, DenmarkAntibodies, Oncology, Clinical trial
7 Nov 1867Marie Curie, nee Sklodowska, born in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)CurieWarsaw 
14 Jun 1868Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, AustriaLandsteinerRockefeller InstituteImmunology
1869Discovery of DNAMiescher University of TubingenDNA
25 Feb 1869Phoebus Levene was born in Sagor, Russia (now Zagare, Lithuania)LeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
27 Jun 1869Hans Spemann born in Stuttgart, Württemberg (now Germany)Spemann University of WurzburgEmbryology
5 Apr 1870Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USAMcClungUniversity of PennsylvaniaGenetics
13 Jun 1870Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, BelgiumBordetPasteur InstituteAntibodies, Immunology, Diagnostics
19 Sep 1871Fritz R Schaudinn was bornSchaudinnCharite – Universitatsmedizin BerlinBacteriology, Infectious diseases
5 Feb 1872Lafayette Benedict Mendel was born in Dehli, NY, USMendelYale UniversityNutrition
15 Feb 1873Hans von Euler-Chelpin was born in Augsburg, GermanyEuler-ChelpinStockholm UniversityBiochemistry
25 Apr 1873Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canadad'HerellePasteur InstituteAntibacterial agents, Bacteriophages, Bacteriology, Virology
21 May 1873Hans Berger was born in Coburg, GermanyBergerCoburg, GermanyNeuroscience
3 Jun 1873Otto Loewi was born in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, GermanyLoewiGraz UniversityNeuroscience
28 Jun 1873Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, FranceCarrelRockefeller UniversityTransplantation
5 Jan 1874Joseph Erlanger was born in San Francisco CA, USAErlangerWashington University in St LouisNeuroscience
17 Nov 1874Chaim A Weizmann was bornWeizmannGeneva UniversityChemistry
9 Jun 1875Henry H Dale was born in London, United KingdomDaleNational Institute for Medical ResearchNeuroscience

21 Sep 1866

Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, France

25 Sep 1866

Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in Lexington KY, USA

23 Apr 1867

Johannes A G Fibiger was born in Silkeborg, Denmark

7 Nov 1867

Marie Curie, nee Sklodowska, born in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)

14 Jun 1868

Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, Austria


Discovery of DNA

25 Feb 1869

Phoebus Levene was born in Sagor, Russia (now Zagare, Lithuania)

27 Jun 1869

Hans Spemann born in Stuttgart, Württemberg (now Germany)

5 Apr 1870

Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USA

13 Jun 1870

Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, Belgium

19 Sep 1871

Fritz R Schaudinn was born

5 Feb 1872

Lafayette Benedict Mendel was born in Dehli, NY, US

15 Feb 1873

Hans von Euler-Chelpin was born in Augsburg, Germany

25 Apr 1873

Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canada

21 May 1873

Hans Berger was born in Coburg, Germany

3 Jun 1873

Otto Loewi was born in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany

28 Jun 1873

Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, France

5 Jan 1874

Joseph Erlanger was born in San Francisco CA, USA

17 Nov 1874

Chaim A Weizmann was born

9 Jun 1875

Henry H Dale was born in London, United Kingdom