Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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1811-01-01T00:00:00+0000Snow was a physician who provided the first conclusive evidence that diseases like cholera and bubonic plague were caused by germs and not by pollution or bad air (miasma). In 1854 he was able to pinpoint the source of an outbreak of cholera in Soho, London, to a particular water pump. The outbreak was brought to an end after the pump's handle was removed. This work prompted major changes in the water and waste systems in London, which were soon followed in other cities, leading to a significant improvement in public health. Snow also made major extensive improvements to anaesthesia and the use of chloroform for use in childbirth. 1813-03-15T00:00:00+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 Nurture' 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 traits 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. 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. 1822-07-20T00:00:00+0000Pasteur was a French chemist and microbiologist who is best known for inventing a sterilisation method for slowing down the development of microbes in milk and wine, a process now called pasteurisation. He also made significant breakthroughs in understanding the causes and prevention of bacterial diseases. His work was instrumental in helping to reduce the mortality rate from puerperal fever, a major cause of death for women in childbirth in the 19th century. Pasteur also pioneered the first rabies vaccine.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+0000The observation was made by Carl Ernst von Baer while investigating the ovary of a dog. 1826-01-01T00:00:00+0000The term was used by Karl Ernst Baer, a Baltic German anatomist and zoologist. Before this time sperm were known as 'animalcules. 1827-01-01T00:00:00+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+0000Lamarck was a French biologist who proposed that physical traits were inherited through generations by two forces. The first force was alchemical and second was environmental. He first outlined his theory of evolution in a lecture in 1802. While discredited for many years, Lamark's theory that organisms can acquire physical traits from their environment and pass these on to their offspring has resurfaced with the rise of epigenetics, a science that seeks to understand how chemical modifications to genes and proteins made in one generation are passed on to the next one. 1829-12-18T00:00:00+0000The enzyme, diastase, was discovered by the French chemist Anselme Payen. It was published in A Payen, JF Persoz, 'Mémoire sur la diastase, les principaux produits de ses réactions et leurs applications aux arts industriels, 53 (1833), 73-92. 1833-01-01T00:00:00+0000Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify as a woman in Britain (1865) and the first woman to receive a medical degree in France (1870). Unable to take up a medical post in any hospital in Britain Garrett Anderson opened her own practice and in 1866 opened the St Mary's Dispensary for Women and Children. She subsequently co-founded the London School of Medicine for Women (later called the Royal Free Hospital of Medicine). It was the first hospital to be staffed by women and to train women doctors. Garrett Anderson was dean of the hospital's medical school from 1883-1903. .1836-06-19T00:00:00+0000The Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius first proposed term to describe a single substance that was a component of living matter.1838-01-01T00:00:00+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 epilepsy cases 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+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
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 
15 Mar 1813John Snow was born in London, United KingdomSnow  
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
1826First observation of a mammalian egg in the ovaryvon Baer Konigsberg UniversityReproduction
1827Term 'spermatozoa' introduced for the first timevon BaerSt Petersburg Academy of SciencesReproduction
5 Apr 1827Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UKListerGlasgow University, King's College London 
18 Dec 1829Jean-Baptiste Lamarck diedLamarckFrench Academy of SciencesEpigenetics, Genetics
1833The first enzymes were isolatedPayen, Persoz  
19 Jun 1836Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was bornGarrett AndersonRoyal Free Hospital 
1838The term 'protein' first coinedBerzeliusRoyal Swedish Academy of Sciences 
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

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

15 Mar 1813

John Snow was born in London, United Kingdom


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


First observation of a mammalian egg in the ovary


Term 'spermatozoa' introduced for the first time

5 Apr 1827

Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UK

18 Dec 1829

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck died


The first enzymes were isolated

19 Jun 1836

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born


The term 'protein' first coined

25 Aug 1841

Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, Switzerland


First observation of chromosomes by Swiss botanist Karl von Nageli