Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Ross was the son of a General in the British Army who trained as a British doctor. He is best known for showing that malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes. In 1897 he discovered a parasite, Plasmodium, living in the gastrointestitnal tract of a mosquito. He went on to elucidate the life-cycle of the parasite. His research laid the foundation for developing methods to prevent the transmission of malaria. In 1902 he was awarded the Nobel Prize of Medicine on the back of this work. He was the first British Nobel Prize winner born outside Europe. 1857-05-13T00:00:00+0000Sherrington shared the 1932 Nobel Prize for Medicine for research into the function of neurons. He coined the terms synapse and neuron to describe parts of the nerve cell that receive or transmit nervous impulses between cells. 1857-11-27T00:00:00+0000Eijkman was a physician and physiologist who helped demonstrate that a poor diet contributes to beriberi, a disease of the peripheral nerves. He first noticed the link in 1897 when by mistake his laboratory chickens were fed a diet of polished, rather than unpolished, rice. Ill-health prevented Eijkman from pinpointing which missing dietary component was important. It was subsequently found that a deficiency of vitamin B1, thiamine, contributed to beriberi. Eijkman shared the Nobel Prize in 1929 for his work in this field. 1858-08-11T00:00:00+0000Charles Darwin, English naturalist, publishes his theory of natural selection which establishes that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry.1859-01-01T00:00:00+0000Loeb was a physiologist and biologist who demonstrated the possibility of reproduction without male fertilisation, parthenogenesis, in sea urchin eggs. He found it was possible to stimulate embryonic development in the eggs of sea urchins without sperm by making slight chemical changes to the water where the eggs were kept. This he discovered while conducting experiments at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His results were published in 'Activation of the unfertilized egg by ultra-violet rays', Science, 40/1036 (1914), 680-1. While Loeb was nominated for the Nobel Prize many times he never won. 1859-04-07T00:00:00+0000Together with Daniel E Salmon, Smith provided the first proof that killed bacteria could be used to induce immunity in experimental animals, in 1886. This laid the foundation for the subsequent development of protective immunisation in humans against bacterial diseases like typhoid and cholera. Smith also pioneered the use of the fermentation tube to study bacterial physiology and classification. Using this technique he managed to identify the causes of several infectious parasitic diseases, including Texas Cattle Fever caused by ticks. His delineation of the tick's life-cycle paved the way to controlling the disease by dipping cattle to kill the ticks. Smith's revelation that insects could transmit disease was a major breakthrough and laid the foundation for the investigation of yellow fever and malaria. Smith established the first department of bacteriology at a medical school in the United States - at Columbian University (now George Washington University). 1859-07-31T00:00:00+0000Bayliss was a physiologist who, together with Ernest Starling, discovered the first hormone, in 1902 The two scientists named the hormone 'secretin' after the Greek word meaning to set in motion. The hormone helps secrete pancreatic juice when food enters the intestines. Bayliss subsequently worked out how trypsin, an enzyme, formed in the small intestine and the time it took to digest protein. He also saved the lives of many soldiers in World War I by recommending injections of gum-saline injections. This was based on his studies of wound shock. 1860-05-02T00:00:00+0000Buchner was a chemist and zymologist. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of cell-free fermentation. This was based on some experiments he carried out in 1897, during which he found that yeast extract could form alcohol from a sugar solution without any living cells. He discovered that the fermentation was driven by an enzyme, zymase, inside the yeast cells. It provided the first evidence that biochemical processes were driven by enzymes formed inside cells. He was killed in the First World War while serving as a general. 1860-05-20T00:00:00+000040,000 cases recorded1861-01-01T00:00:00+0000Hopkins was a biochemist who shared the 1929 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for discovering vitamins and demonstrating they were an important nutrient in the diet. This was based on experiments he carried out on rats in 1901. He also helped establish the chemistry of muscle contraction, showing that lactic acid accumulated in working muscle in 1907. In 1922 he isolated and demonstrated the importance of tripeptide gluathione to the utilisation of oxygen by the cell. 1861-06-20T00:00:00+0000Stevens was an American biologist who was one of the first scientists to describe the importance of the Y chromosome for determining the sex of some species, and to recognise that females have two X chromosomes. The later she determined after noting male beetles produced two kinds of sperm: each with different sized chromosomes. In 1905 she was awarded $1000 for the best scientific paper written by a women. Five years later she was listed as one of America's leading 1000 scientists by The New York Times.1861-07-07T00:00:00+0000Herrick was a physician and cardiologist who reported the first case of sickle-shaped red blood cells in 1910. These he found in the blood of a medical student from Grenada suffering from anaemia. Clinicians subsequently found that the condition, called sickle-cell anaemia, was inherited and was most common in black patients. Sickle-cell anemia was the first disease found to have a genetic cause. Herrick later also observed the first clinical features of coronary thrombosis. 1861-08-11T00:00:00+0000Bragg shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics with his son, William Lawrence Bragg, for the development of X-ray crystallography. Using his experience of ionisation measurements William H. Bragg managed to construct an X-ray spectometer to investigate the properties of X-rays. He maintained an active interest in X-ray crystallography until his death. Sciences: 1862-07-02T00:00:00+0000Oscar Hertwig, Albrecht von Kolliker, Eduard Strasburger, and August Weismann independently show the cell's nucleus contains the basis for inheritance.1864-01-01T00:00:00+0000Ivanovsky was a microbiologist who was one of the first scientists to discover viruses. He made the discovery based on a request to investigate a disease that was destroying tobacco crops in the Ukraine, which he carried out while a doctoral student. Initially he believed the destruction was due to mosaic disease, which was commonly linked to bacteria. He then noticed that sap filtered from the diseased plants could transfer the infection to healthy plants. With the microorganism proving invisible even under the highest magnification and able to permeate porcelain filters designed to trap bacteria, Ivanosky concluded the causal agent was an extremely tiny infectious agent. He first described his findings in an article in 1882 and then in a dissertation in 1902. 1864-11-09T00:00:00+0000Conducting experiments breeding peas, Gregor Mendel, Austrian scientist, demonstrates that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns. This lays the foundation for what was to become known as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Athough Mendel's theory was not recognised until the early 20th century, Mendel's work established the general principles for modern genetics. 1865-01-01T00:00:00+0000R. Virchow, 'Ueber das Vockommn und den Nacweis des hepatogenen. inspersondere des katarrhalischen Icterus', Vichows Arch Pathol Anat, (1865), 32, 117-25.1865-01-01T00:00:00+0000Harden was one of the key founders of British biochemistry. He won the 1929 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for working out the importance of two enzymes and phosphoric acid during the fermentation process. These he discovered while investigating the fermentation of sugars by bacteria, a project undertaken between 1900 and 1914 that was designed to find a way of differentiating between different groups of Escherichia coli. The work involved grinding bacteria and extracting the intracellular juices.1865-10-12T00:00:00+0000Ernst Haeckel, German biologist and philosopher, proposes the cell nucleus contains factors responsible for the transmission of hereditary traits.1866-01-01T00:00:00+0000Nicolle 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 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+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
13 May 1857Ronald Ross was born in Almora, IndiaRoss Liverpool School of Tropical MedicineInfectious diseases
27 Nov 1857Charles S Sherrington was born in London, United KingdomSherringtonLondon, United KingdomNeuroscience
11 Aug 1858Christiaan Eijkman was born in Nijkerk, the NetherlandsEijkmanUtrecht UniversityNutrition
1859Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'Darwin Evolution
7 Apr 1859Jacques Loeb was born in Mayen, Germany LoebRockefeller UniversityReproduction
31 Jul 1859Theobald Smith was born in Albany, New York, USASmithBureau of Animal Industry, George Washington UniversityInfectious diseases, Bacteriology
2 May 1860William M Bayliss was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, UKBaylissUniversity College LondonEndocrinology
20 May 1860Eduard Buchner was born in Munich, GermanyBuchnerUniversity of WurzburgBiochemistry
1861 - 1865Outbreaks of of jaundice noted in Union troops during American Civil War   
20 Jun 1861Frederick Gowland Hopkins was born in Eastbourne, United KingdomHopkinsCambridge UniversityBiochemistry, Cell
7 Jul 1861Nettie Maria Stevens was born in Cavendish, Vermon, USAStevensCarnegie Institute, Bryn Mawr CollegeGenetics
11 Aug 1861James Bryan Herrick was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USAHerrickRush Medical CollegeGenetics
2 Jul 1862William Henry Bragg was born in Wigton, United KingdomBraggLeeds University, University College LondonX ray crystallography
1864 - 1865Nucleus shown to contain genetic substanceHertwig, von Kolliker, Strasburger, Weismann University of Munich, University of Wurzburg, University of FreiburgGenetics, DNA
9 Nov 1864Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was born in Gdov, RussiaIvanovskyUniversity of St PetersburgVirology
1865Laws of inheritance establishedMendelAbbey of St Thomas, Brno, Austro-Hungarian EmpireGenetics
1865Rudolf Virchow, renowned pathologist, argued jaundice caused by deranged cellular functionVirchow  
12 Oct 1865Arthur Harden was born in Manchester, United KingdomHardenLondon UniversityBiochemistry
1866Theory that cell's nucleus contains genetic substanceHaeckelUniversity of JenaCell, Genetics
21 Sep 1866Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, FranceNicolle Vaccine

13 May 1857

Ronald Ross was born in Almora, India

27 Nov 1857

Charles S Sherrington was born in London, United Kingdom

11 Aug 1858

Christiaan Eijkman was born in Nijkerk, the Netherlands


Darwin publishes 'On the Origin of Species'

7 Apr 1859

Jacques Loeb was born in Mayen, Germany

31 Jul 1859

Theobald Smith was born in Albany, New York, USA

2 May 1860

William M Bayliss was born in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, UK

20 May 1860

Eduard Buchner was born in Munich, Germany

1861 - 1865

Outbreaks of of jaundice noted in Union troops during American Civil War

20 Jun 1861

Frederick Gowland Hopkins was born in Eastbourne, United Kingdom

7 Jul 1861

Nettie Maria Stevens was born in Cavendish, Vermon, USA

11 Aug 1861

James Bryan Herrick was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA

2 Jul 1862

William Henry Bragg was born in Wigton, United Kingdom

1864 - 1865

Nucleus shown to contain genetic substance

9 Nov 1864

Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was born in Gdov, Russia


Laws of inheritance established


Rudolf Virchow, renowned pathologist, argued jaundice caused by deranged cellular function

12 Oct 1865

Arthur Harden was born in Manchester, United Kingdom


Theory that cell's nucleus contains genetic substance

21 Sep 1866

Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, France