Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Avery was a physician and bacteriologist who provided the first evidence that that genes are made up of DNA. In 1944 he and colleagues conducted a series of experiments in mice using two sets of bacteria, one smooth (virulent) and the other rough (nonvirulent), associated with pneumonia. In the first instance they injected the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which went on to die. Next they injected the non-virulent bacteria into a mouse, which survived. They then heated the virulent bacteria to kill it and injected it into a mouse, which survived. Following this they injected a mixture of heat-killed bacteria with the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which died. Finally they injected a mixture of harmless bacteria with DNA extracted from the heated lethal bacteria in a mouse which died. The experiment showed that the harmless bacteria became lethal when mixed with DNA from the virulent bacteria. 1877-10-21T00:00:00+0000An American virologist, Zinsser isolated the bacterium that causes typhus. 1878-11-17T00:00:00+0000Louis Pasteur develops an attenuated chicken cholera vaccine1879-01-01T00:00:00+0000A pathologist, Rous won the 1966 Nobel Prize for showing how viruses could cause cancer. He demonstrated this in 1910 by transplanting some material from a cancer tumour taken from a chicken into a healthy chicken. The healthy chicken developed cancer. Other scientists struggled to replicate his experiment in mammals so his discovery was initially dismissed. 1879-10-05T00:00:00+0000Hess was a physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949 for identifying parts of the brain that control internal organs. He used brain stimulation techniques using electrodes to map regions of the brain associated with specific physiological responses. This he did using cats in the 1930s. He also found it possible to induce excitement and apathy by stimulating different parts of the hypothalamus1881-03-17T00:00:00+0000Schleiden was a botanist. Based on his study of plant structures under the microscope he helped develop the theory that cells are the basic structure in all organisms and the basic unit of reproduction. He also connected the cell nucleus with cell division and suggested that all embryonic plant cells arose from one cell. 1881-06-23T00:00:00+0000Fleming was a biologist and microbiologist. He first made his mark through his discovery of lysosyme in 1923. This is an enzyme produced in the tears, saliva, mucus and human milk which is an important part of the immune system. Today he is best known for having found penicillin, a mould subsequently developed as the first antibiotic drug to treat bacterial diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 for this discovery.1881-08-06T00:00:00+0000The stem cell is conceived as a distinctive cell which serves as the starting point for blood formation.1882-01-01T00:00:00+0000Darwin was an English naturalist best known for developing the theory that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry. His book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, outlined his evidence for his theory of evolution. While initially rejected, his explanation of natural selection as the basic mechanism for evolution achieved broad consensus by 1930s and was accepted as a unifying theory for the diversity of life. 1882-04-19T00:00:00+0000Galton publishes the term in his book 'Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development'. 1883-01-01T00:00:00+0000Mendel is today considered the father of modern genetics. An Augustinian monk, Mendel helped establish the basic laws of genetic inheritance by studying the traits between different pea plant generations. Mendel conducted this research between 1853 and 1863. Based on experiments with tens of thousands of different plants, Mendel established that peas followed certain patterns in terms of the traits they inherited. He published his results in 1866, but he did little to promote his work. The importance of his work was only grasped many decades later after his death. 1884-01-06T00:00:00+0000Schwann was a German physiologist who defined the cell as the basic unit of animal tissue structure. This laid the foundation for the study of cell biology.1884-01-11T00:00:00+0000Meyerhof was a physician and biochemist who was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of the 'fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle.' In 1938 he was forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his Jewish background which entailed leaving the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medicine where he was a director from 1929. He was appointed a guest professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 1884-04-12T00:00:00+0000Svedberg was a nuclear scientist who in 1923 invented the analytical ultracentrifuge, a high speed centrifuge that makes it possible to spin large molecules at forces in excess of a million times the force of gravity. This provided a means to separate large macromolecules such as proteins out of a solution. Svedberg used his ultracentrifuge to work out the relative molecular masses of large molecules in high polymers and proteins. He managed to determine the molecular weight of haemoglobin in blood and casein in milk. Svedberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1926 for his invention of the analytical ultracentrifuge. which he used to research colloids and proteins.1884-08-30T00:00:00+0000Albrecht Kossel isolates and describes five organic compounds present in nucleic acids as being adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. 1885-01-01T00:00:00+0000The outbreak was probably caused by blood contamination of the lymph used in the smallpox vaccination. Of 1129 vaccinated shipworkers, 191 developed jaundice. A. Lurman, 'Eine icterusepidemic', Berl Klin Wehnschr, 22 (1885), 20-23; J. Jehn, 'Eine Ikterusepidemie in wahrscheinlichem. Zusam-menhang mit vorausgegangener Revaccination', Dtsch Med.Wochenschr, 11 (1885), 339.1885-01-01T00:00:00+00001885-01-01T00:00:00+0000Louis Pasteur successfully tested his rabies vaccine on a nine year old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog.1885-07-06T00:00:00+0000Kendall made several contributions to biochemistry and medicine. He is best known for isolating the steroid cortisone from the adrenal gland cortex, subsequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1950. He also isolated thyroxine, the main hormone secreted by the thyroid gland which is vital to digestion, heart and muscle function and brain development and bone maintenance. 1886-03-08T00:00:00+0000Robinson was an organic chemist who made significant contributions to the structural analysis, synthesis, and biosynthesis of diverse natural products and to the electronic interpretation of reaction mechanisms. He won the Nobel Prize in 1947 for his research on plant dyestuffs (anthocyanins) and alkaloids. His determination of the arrangement of atoms within morphine, papverine, narcotine and other molecules paved the way for the production of certain antimalarial drugs in the 1930s. 1886-09-13T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
21 Oct 1877 Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, CanadaAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA
17 Nov 1878Hans Zinsser was bornZinsserColumbia UniversityBacteriology
1879Chicken cholera vaccine developedPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology, Vaccine
5 Oct 1879Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USARousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
17 Mar 1881Walter R Hess was born in Frauenfeld, SwitzerlandHessUniversity of ZurichNeuroscience
23 Jun 1881Matthias J Schleiden diedSchleiden University of JenaCell
6 Aug 1881Alexander Fleming was bornFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents
1882Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first timeHaeckel, Dantchakoff, Pappenheim, Ehrlich, MaximowUniversity of Jena, Charite Hospital, Koch Institute, Petrograd University Stem cells
19 Apr 1882Charles Darwin diedDarwin Evolution
1883The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious matingGalton Genetics
6 Jan 1884Gregor Johann Mendel diedMendel Genetics
11 Jan 1884Theodor Schwann diedSchwannUniversity of LiegeCell
12 Apr 1884Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, GermanyMeyerhofKiel University, University of PennsylvaniaMetabolism
30 Aug 1884Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, SwedenSvedbergUppsala UniversityBiochemistry
1885 - 1901Nucleic acids structure determinedKosselInstitute of Physiology, University of Berlin, University of MarburgDNA
1885Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymphLurman  
1885Louis Pasteur put forward concept of germ-free animalPasteur Microbiome
1885First rabies vaccine testedPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology, Vaccine
8 Mar 1886Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USAKendallMayo ClinicBiochemistry, Endocrinology
13 Sep 1886Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United KingdomRobinsonOxford UniversityAntibacterial agents

21 Oct 1877

Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, Canada

17 Nov 1878

Hans Zinsser was born


Chicken cholera vaccine developed

5 Oct 1879

Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USA

17 Mar 1881

Walter R Hess was born in Frauenfeld, Switzerland

23 Jun 1881

Matthias J Schleiden died

6 Aug 1881

Alexander Fleming was born


Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first time

19 Apr 1882

Charles Darwin died


The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious mating

6 Jan 1884

Gregor Johann Mendel died

11 Jan 1884

Theodor Schwann died

12 Apr 1884

Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, Germany

30 Aug 1884

Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, Sweden

1885 - 1901

Nucleic acids structure determined


Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymph


Louis Pasteur put forward concept of germ-free animal


First rabies vaccine tested

8 Mar 1886

Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USA

13 Sep 1886

Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United Kingdom