Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Schwann 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.1810-12-07T00:00:00+00001811-01-01T00:00:00+0000Term 'bacteriophage, was coined by Felix d'Herelle in 1917. 1815-01-01T00:00:00+0000Brown-Sequard was a physiologist and neurologist. He is best known for his discovery of the physiology of the spinal cord and the need for the adrenal gland. In addition, he predicted the existence of hormones. He sparked controversy after claiming to have rejuvenated his sexual prowess by injecting himself with extracts of monkey testis. His response to the extracts is now considered to have been placebo but his experiment helped found endocrinology as a discipline.1817-04-08T00:00:00+00001818-01-22T00:00:00+0000Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from a medical school in US (Geneva Medical College, New York). In 1857 she set up the New York Dispensary for Indigent Women and Children. A year later she became the first woman registered on UK Medical Register. Blackwell was an ardent promoter of women's education in medicine. In 1874 she helped set up the London School of Medicine for Women which prepared women to take the licensing exam of the Apothecaries Hall. For Blackwell, medicine was a means for social and moral reform. Between 1880 and 1895 she became involved in a number of reform movements, including moral reform, sexual purity, hygiene, Eugenics, medical ethics, and women's rights. 1821-02-03T00:00:00+0000Galton is best known for having ignited the debate about 'Nature versus Nature' in 1869 and coined the term 'Eugenics' in 1883. Inspired by his cousin Charles Darwin's work, he developed a programme of research to understand human variation, looking at their differences in mental capabilities and height to facial characteristics and fingerprint patterns. He pioneered the use of statistical methods to determine human differences and how intelligence and physical trains are passed down through families. 1822-02-16T00:00:00+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. It involved experiments with tens of thousands of different plants. He established that peas followed certain patterns in terms of the traits they inherited. His results were published in 1866. Mendel did little to promote his work. The importance of his work was only grasped many decades later after his death. 1822-07-20T00:00:00+0000A French chemist and microbiologist, Pasteur helped develop a method to slow the development of microbes in milk and wine called pasteurisation. He also pioneered the first vaccine against rabies.1822-12-27T00:00:00+0000Jenner was an English physician who helped pioneer the smallpox vaccine based on his hypothesis that the pus in blisters milkmaids received from cowpox protected them from smallpox. To test out his theory in 1796 he inoculated the 8 year old son of his gardener with pus taken from the cowpox blisters of a local milkmaid. While the boy suffered a fever he showed now sign of infection with smallpox. Jenner then injected the child with smallpox material, a common method of immunisation at the time, known as variolation. Again he showed no sign of infection. Jenner then tested out the same technique in 23 further people. Based on his success, in 1840 the British government decided to outlaw variolation and instead provide Jenner's method for free to prevent smallpox. Jenner's work laid the foundation for immunisation as a method for preventing disease and for contemporary discoveries in immunology. 1823-01-26T00:00:00+0000A chemist and physiologist, Hoppe-Seyler helped pioneer the disciplines of biochemistry and molecular biology. He studied fluids of the body such as blood, haemoglobin, pus, bile, milk, and urine and was the first to crystallise haemoglobin and observe its absorption spectrum. In addition he performed several important studies on chlorophyll and isolated several different proteins. Hoppe-Seyler lost both of his parents by the time he was nine years old and spent some of his childhood in an orphan asylum in Halle. He was subsequently adopted by Georg Seyler, the husband of his older sister.1825-12-26T00:00:00+0000Lister pioneered the practice of cleanliness in surgery by introducing the routine use of carbolic acid on surgical instruments and wounds. He developed these methods at Glasgow Royal Infirmary after being inspired by the work of Louis Pasteur. Lister's ideas about the transmission of infection and the use of antiseptics were initially mocked by his peers and it took time for the surgeons to accept them. The adoption of Lister's techniques dramatically reduced the incidence of post-operative infections and improved the safety of surgery. 1827-04-05T00:00:00+0000A French biologist, Lamarck developed a theory of evolution proposing that physical traits were inherited through generations by two forces. The first force was alchemical and second was the environment of an organism. 1829-12-18T00:00:00+0000Kocher was a physician and medical researcher who was a major pioneer in the fields of applied surgery, neurosurgery and, especially, thyroid surgery and endocrinology. His success in the field of surgery is attributed to his implementation of antiseptic wound treatment, use of special masks on patients for anaesthesia and controlling blood loss during surgery. Kocher was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1909 for his work on the physiology, pathology and surgery of the thyroid. He was the first Swiss person and first surgeon to ever receive the prize. Within the field of neurosurgery he showed that some cases epilepsy were caused by brain tumours that could be surgically removed.1841-08-25T00:00:00+0000von Nageli identified string-like bodies in cell nucleus. He did not know they played role in heredity. 1842-01-01T00:00:00+0000Flemming was a biologist who is credited as the founder of cytogenetics. He was the first to describe the behaviour of chromosomes during cell division, a process he called mitosis. This he discovered through investigations of the fins and gills of salamanders. He first published his findings in 1878. In addition to his pioneering scientific work, Flemming is famous for his social activism. Notably he fed the homeless on a weekly basis and donated 20% of his salary to homeless shelters. He also taught mathematics and science to children too poor to attend school. 1843-04-21T00:00:00+0000Golgi was a cytologist and pathologist who shared the 1906 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research into the nervous system. He developed a microscopic staining technique, using silver compounds, for seeing new and unseen structures in nerve tissues and individual neurons in the brain. This he invented in 1873 while working as chief medical officer at the Hospital for the Chronically ill. Golgi was the first to provide clear descriptions of the structure of the cerebellum, hippocampus, spinal cord, olfactory lobe. He also defined striatal and cortical lesions in the case of chorea, a neurological disorder. 1843-07-07T00:00:00+0000Koch was a major pioneer of modern bacteriology and won the 1905 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his groundbreaking work on tuberculosis. 1843-12-11T00:00:00+0000Mechnikov was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1908 for his discovery of phagocytes (macrophages), a type of immune cell that protects the body by ingesting harmful foreign substances like bacteria and dead or dying cells. He made the discovery in 1882 while studying an unusual group of cells that clustered around thorns he pinned into starfish larvae. Based on this work he hypothesised that inflammation resulted from the process by which white blood cells attacked and destroyed bacteria. The scientific community took time to accept this idea. 1845-05-16T00:00:00+0000Laveran was a physician who was one of the first to show protozoan parasites were the cause of disease. He first made the link in 1880 after finding parasites in a blood smear taken from a patient who had just died from malaria. This parasite would later be called Plasmodium. Laveran subsequently identified Trypanosoma, another protozoan parasite, was the cause of trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness). In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize on the back of these discoveries. Laveran devoted half of his prize money to set up the Laboratory of Tropical Medicine at the Pasteur Institute where he was Chief of the Honorary Service.1845-06-18T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
7 Dec 1810Theodor Schwann was bornSchwannUniversity of LiegeCell
1811 - 1814Caspar Wistar published his two volumes of 'A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine', the first American anatomy textbook Wistar Institute 
1815Discovery of bacteriophages, type of virus that attacks bacteria, by English bacteriologist William TwortTwortUniversity of LondonPhage display
8 Apr 1817Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard was born in Port Louis, MauritiusBrown-SequardPort Louis, MauritiusEndocrinology
22 Jan 1818Caspar Wistar died Wistar Institute 
3 Feb 1821Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, EnglandBlackwell  
16 Feb 1822Francis Galton was born in Birmingham, United KingdomGaltonUniversity College LondonGenetics
20 Jul 1822Gregor Johann Mendel was born in Hyncice, Czech RepublicMendelHyncice, Czech RepublicGenetics
27 Dec 1822Louis Pasteur was bornPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology
26 Jan 1823Edward Jenner diedJenner Immunology, Vaccine
26 Dec 1825Felix Hoppe-Seyler was born in GermanyHoppe-SeylerUniversity of TubingenBiochemistry
5 Apr 1827Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UKListerGlasgow University, King's College London 
18 Dec 1829Jean-Baptiste Lamarck diedLamarckFrench Academy of SciencesGenetics
25 Aug 1841Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, SwitzerlandKocherUniversity of BerneNeuroscience, Endocrinology, Surgery
1842First observation of chromosomes by Swiss botanist Karl von NageliNageliGenetics, DNA
21 Apr 1843Walther Flemming was born in Schwerin, GermanyFlemmingUniversity of KielCell, Genetics
7 Jul 1843Camillo Golgi was born in Corteno, ItalyGolgiUniversity of PaviaNeuroscience
11 Dec 1843Robert Koch was born in Clausthal (now Clausthal-Zellerfeld), GermanyKochUniversity of BerlinBacteriology
16 May 1845Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov was born in Kharkov (now Kharkiv), Russian Empire (now Ukraine)MechnikovPasteur InstituteImmunology
18 Jun 1845Charles L Alphonse Laveran was born in Paris, FranceLaveranPasteur InstituteInfectious diseases

7 Dec 1810

Theodor Schwann was born

1811 - 1814

Caspar Wistar published his two volumes of 'A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine', the first American anatomy textbook


Discovery of bacteriophages, type of virus that attacks bacteria, by English bacteriologist William Twort

8 Apr 1817

Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard was born in Port Louis, Mauritius

22 Jan 1818

Caspar Wistar died

3 Feb 1821

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England

16 Feb 1822

Francis Galton was born in Birmingham, United Kingdom

20 Jul 1822

Gregor Johann Mendel was born in Hyncice, Czech Republic

27 Dec 1822

Louis Pasteur was born

26 Jan 1823

Edward Jenner died

26 Dec 1825

Felix Hoppe-Seyler was born in Germany

5 Apr 1827

Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UK

18 Dec 1829

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck died

25 Aug 1841

Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, Switzerland


First observation of chromosomes by Swiss botanist Karl von Nageli

21 Apr 1843

Walther Flemming was born in Schwerin, Germany

7 Jul 1843

Camillo Golgi was born in Corteno, Italy

11 Dec 1843

Robert Koch was born in Clausthal (now Clausthal-Zellerfeld), Germany

16 May 1845

Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov was born in Kharkov (now Kharkiv), Russian Empire (now Ukraine)

18 Jun 1845

Charles L Alphonse Laveran was born in Paris, France