Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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The 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+0000Flemming was a biologist who is credited with the foundation 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 bacteriologist. He was responsible for the identification of the causative agents of anthrax (1876), tuberculosis (1882) and cholera (1883). This was aided by the photomicrography method he developed. The technique involved preparing thin layers of bacteria on glass slides which were fixed by heat. Koch also invented a method for culturing microorganisms in a drop nutrient solution on the underside of a glass slide. In 1890 he laid out 4 general criteria, known Koch's postulates, for establishing the causative relationship between a microbe and a disease. Koch was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1905 for his groundbreaking work on tuberculosis. 1843-12-11T00:00:00+0000Miescher was the first person to isolate nucleic acids from the nuclei of white blood cells. This he did in 1869. The significance of his work, first published in 1871, was initially missed by the scientific community. Miescher later suggested that nucleic acids could carry the genetic blueprint for life. In addition to his work on nucleic acids, Miescher demonstrated carbon dioxide concentrations in blood regulate breathing. Twitter1844-08-13T00:00:00+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+0000van Beneden was a cytologist and embryologist. He worked out how chromosomes divide during cell meiosis. Based on studies of an intestinal worm found in horses, he also showed that fertilisation involves the union of two half-nuclei, one form the male sperm cell and one from the female egg, each containing half the the number of chromosomes found in all cells. He later demonstrated that the chromosome number is constant for every body cell in each species. 1846-03-05T00:00:00+0000MacEwen was a Scottish physician who developed a technique to locate brain tumours by observing changes in motor and sensory functions. He performed the first successful intracranial surgery in 1879 on a teenage girl. The operation was conducted based on preoperative observation of twitches on her face and arms. The patient lived for another eight years. An autopsy performed after her death showed no trace of her tumour. 1848-06-22T00:00:00+0000Hertwig was a biologist who determined that fertilisation starts when the nuclei of sperm and ovum cells fuse. This he proved in 1876 through experiments with sea urchins. Eight years later he demonstrated, through investigations of frog eggs, that the cell divides along its long axis. He was also prescient in predicting, in 1885, that the nucleic acid is the substance responsible for fertilisation and the transmission of hereditary traits. This phenomenon was proven in 1944. 1849-04-21T00:00:00+0000Richet was a physiologist who shared the 1913 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of anaphylaxis, an acute allergic reaction where extremely small doses of an allergen may cause life-threatening anaphylactic shock. This phenomenon he discovered with Paul Portier after they attempted to immunise dogs against a toxin from sea anemones. Some of these dogs developed respiratory distress and died when injected with a second dose of the toxin. Richet and Portier hypothesised this was due to reduced immunity and increased sensitivity to the toxin. Their finding provided the first evidence that the immune system could damage as well as provide protection against disease. Richet went on to help elucidate the cause of hay fever, asthma and other allergic reactions to foreign substances. 1850-08-26T00:00:00+0000Ramon y Cahal was a histologist and neuroscientist. He combined scientific and artistic skills to uncover the structure of the nervous system. His theory that the brain is made up of individual cells rather than a tangled web is now a fundamental principle in neuroscience. He shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1906 for his discoveries about the structure of the nervous system. 1852-05-01T00:00:00+0000Petri was a microbiologist who is credited with inventing the petri dish, a shallow glass cylinder used to culture cells and bacteria. This he developed in the late 1870s while working as an assistant to Robert Koch. Petri developed the dish to help culture bacteria on agar plates. He subsequently developed the technique of agar culture to clone bacterial colonies derived from single cells. His work helped improve the process of identifying bacteria responsible for disease. 1852-05-31T00:00:00+0000Fischer was a German chemist who opened up the era of biochemistry by clarifying the structure of sugars and enzymes and elaborating how they were formed. In 1902 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for demonstrating the structure of biological compounds, including sugars proteins and purines. He synthesised many natural occurring molecules for the first time, including glucose, caffeine, and uric acid. In addition, he managed to synthesis several amino acids and created small chains of them as precursors to protein formation. Fisher is also associated with the idea of the 'lock and key' mechanism which is used to explain how enzymes catalyse certain reactions and not others.1852-10-09T00:00:00+0000Gram was a bacteriologist who developed a method to quickly identify two different large groups of bacteria. His method is now routinely used for histology and microbiology. Bacteria that absorb the stain which turn purple are known as Gram positive bacteria, and those that do not absorb the stain, which might be coloured pink with a counterstain, are labelled Gram negative. 1853-09-13T00:00:00+0000Kossel was a German biochemist who was a key pioneer in the field of genetics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1910 for having isolated and described the five organic compounds present in nucleic acid. The compounds he isolated were adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. These are key to the formation of DNA and RNA. Kossel's work also laid the foundation for determining the composition of protein and its polypetides. 1853-09-16T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
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
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
13 Aug 1844Johann Friedrich Miescher was born in Basel, SwitzerlandMiescherUniversity of TubingenDNA
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
5 Mar 1846Edouard van Beneden was born in Leuven, Belgianvan Beneden University of LiegeCell, Genetics, DNA
22 Jun 1848William MacEwen was bornMacEwenUniversity of GlasgowNeuroscience
21 Apr 1849Oskar Hertwig was born in Friedberg, GermanyHertwigFriedberg, GermanyReproduction, Genetics
26 Aug 1850Charles R Richet was born in Paris, FranceRichetSorbonne UniversityImmunology
1 May 1852Santiago Ramon y Cajal was born in Petilla de Arago, SpainRamon y CajalMadrid UniversityNeuroscience
31 May 1852Richard Julius Petri was bornPetriImperial Health OfficeBacteriology
9 Oct 1852Hermann Emil Fischer was born in Euskirchen, Prussia (now Germany)FischerUniversity of BerlinBiochemistry
13 Sep 1853Hans C J Gram was born in Copenhagen, DenmarkGramUniversity of CopenhagenBacteriology
16 Sep 1853Albrecht Kossel was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg (now Germany)KosselUniversity of HeidelbergGenetics

1833

The first enzymes were isolated

19 Jun 1836

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born

1838

The term 'protein' first coined

25 Aug 1841

Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, Switzerland

1842

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

13 Aug 1844

Johann Friedrich Miescher was born in Basel, Switzerland

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

5 Mar 1846

Edouard van Beneden was born in Leuven, Belgian

22 Jun 1848

William MacEwen was born

21 Apr 1849

Oskar Hertwig was born in Friedberg, Germany

26 Aug 1850

Charles R Richet was born in Paris, France

1 May 1852

Santiago Ramon y Cajal was born in Petilla de Arago, Spain

31 May 1852

Richard Julius Petri was born

9 Oct 1852

Hermann Emil Fischer was born in Euskirchen, Prussia (now Germany)

13 Sep 1853

Hans C J Gram was born in Copenhagen, Denmark

16 Sep 1853

Albrecht Kossel was born in Rostock, Mecklenburg (now Germany)