Timeline of key events in biotechnology

Mouseover the event title for a more detailed description of the event (if available). To search for particular terms in the description of the event enter the term in the box below 'Event' on the table and press 'enter'. Alternatively use the dropdown lists to filter by Person, Place or Science. Click here to clear the filter.

McClung was a zoologist. He is best known for identifying the role of chromosomes in determining the sex of a species. This he did through a series of experiments with insects between 1901 and 1902. Based on his findings he hypothesised that the accessory chromosome (now known as chromosome X) could be the nuclear element that determined sex. It was the first time a scientist suggested that a given chromosome carried a set of hereditary traits. 1870-04-05T00:00:00+0000Bordet was a Belgian physician, immunologist and microbiologist. He is best known for winning the 1919 Nobel Prize for his discovery of two components in the blood - antibodies and complement proteins - that help destroy invading bacteria. They do this by rupturing the cell walls of the bacteria, a process known as bacteriolysis. Bordet made the discovery in 1895. He subsequently found, in 1898, that red blood cells from one animal species injected into another get destroyed by haemolysis - a process analogous to bacteriolysis. His research laid the foundation for the development of diagnostic tests that looked for antibodies in the blood to detect infectious agents. The first one was for typhoid, developed in 1896.1870-06-13T00:00:00+0000Schaudinn was a zoologist and microbiologist, best known for helping to discover the bacterial cause of syphilis, in 1905. Prior to this research Schaudinn identified the unicellular parasite Entamoeba histolytica, the amoeba that causes dysentery and confirmed hook worm infections are contracted through skin on the feet. This he established through experiments with monkeys. In addition Schuadinn made important discoveries relating to sleeping sickness and malaria. Schaudinn died at the age of 34 following surgery to remove a gastrointestinal abscess, probably caused by an amoebian infection he voluntary acquired while doing research on amoebas.1871-09-19T00:00:00+00001872-01-01T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages (phages), viruses that infect bacteria that are now major tools in biotechnology. He isolated the first phage from chicken faeces in 1919. Following this he successfully treated chicken affected by a plague of typhus with the phage and in August 1919 cured a patient with dysentery using the same method. This laid the basis for the development of phage therapy. 1873-04-25T00:00:00+0000Berger was a psychiatrist and neurologist who developed the first electroencephalogram (EEG) in 1924 for recording brain wave patterns. His technique involved the insertion of silver wires under the patient's scalp, one at the front and one at the back of the head. Berger's innovation was a historic breakthrough, providing an important neurological and psychological tool. Using the EEG Berger was the first to describe different waves or rhythms in the normal and abnormal brain. Many of his German peers, however, did not recognise the significance of his work. Despite gaining international recognition, the Nazi regime forced Berger into early retirement at the age of 65 and banned him from any further work on the EEG. 1873-05-21T00:00:00+0000Loewi was a pharmacologist and physician. He is credited with the discovery of the first neurotransmitter, acetylcholine, in the brain. His work provided the first evidence that chemicals were involved in the transmission of impulses between nerve cells and from neurons to the responsive organ. He established this through investigations of the frog. Loewi was awarded the 1936 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work. 1873-06-03T00:00:00+0000Carrel was a surgeon and biologist. Inspired by lessons he took from from an embroideress, he developed new techniques for suturing blood vessels that minimised damage to the vascular wall. He was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of 'his work on vascular structure and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs'. During World War I he helped develop a new method for treating wounds based on chlorine, which was a major advance in the care of traumatic wounds. In the 1930s he helped create a glass perfusion pump, a forerunner to the artificial heart. His reputation later became marred in controversy because of his strong support for Eugenic policies of sterilisation for those with families with hereditary diseases and a criminal history as well euthanasia for the mentally defective. In 1944 he was singled out for collaboration with the Nazis under the Vichy government, but he died before going on trial. 1873-06-28T00:00:00+0000Erlanger shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine for research into the the actions of nerve fibers. 1874-01-05T00:00:00+0000Dale was a pharmacologist and physiologist who helped identify acetylcholine, the first neurotransmitter discovered, in 1914. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1936 on the basis of this work and uncovering the chemical process by which nerve impulses are transmitted. During the 1940s he drew up a scheme to differentiate neurons according to the neurotransmitters they release. 1875-06-09T00:00:00+0000Macleod was a Scottish physician and biochemist who was a key adviser in the original experiments carried out by Frederick Grant Banting Charles Best to establish the use of insulin as a treatment for diabetes. Macleod provided the laboratory space and experimental animals for the work. He was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for helping develop insulin therapy for diabetes in 1923.1876-09-06T00:00:00+0000Noguchi is best remembered for his identification, in 1913, of the causative agent of syphilis (the bacteria Treponema pallidum), and identification of the pathogen responsible for Carrion's disease (a Leishmania parasite). Unable to get a medical position in Japan because of his hand deformity which potential employers feared would put off potential patients, Noguchi spent his life doing laboratory work in the United States. While valued in his lifetime, his reputation took a battering after his death because researchers struggled to reproduce some of his claims, including having discovered the cause of yellow fever, polio and rabies.1876-11-24T00:00:00+0000von Baer was an Estonian biologist who was the first to isolate the mammalian egg cell. 1876-11-28T00:00:00+0000A German chemist, Windaus, gained the 1928 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his research into cholesterol and other sterols and their relation to vitamins. H1876-12-25T00:00:00+0000Albrecht Kossel, German biochemist, shows that the substance called nuclein consists of a protein and non-protein component.1877-01-01T00:00:00+0000Avery was a Canadian-American physician who helped discover the genetic information in genes and chromosomes is made up of DNA.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+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
5 Apr 1870Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USAMcClungUniversity of PennsylvaniaGenetics
13 Jun 1870Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, BelgiumBordetPasteur InstituteAntibodies, Immunology, Diagnostics
19 Sep 1871Fritz R Schaudinn was bornSchaudinnCharite – Universitatsmedizin BerlinBacteriology, Infectious diseases
1872Walther Flemming, German biologist, describes chromosomes and examines their behaviour during cell division. FlemmingUniversity of KielDNA
25 Apr 1873Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canadad'HerellePasteur InstituteAntibacterial agents, Bacteriophages, Bacteriology, Virology
21 May 1873Hans Berger was born in Coburg, GermanyBergerCoburg, GermanyNeuroscience
3 Jun 1873Otto Loewi was born in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, GermanyLoewiGraz UniversityNeuroscience
28 Jun 1873Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, FranceCarrelRockefeller UniversityTransplantation
5 Jan 1874Joseph Erlanger was born in San Francisco CA, USAErlangerWashington University in St LouisNeuroscience
9 Jun 1875Henry H Dale was born in London, United KingdomDaleNational Institute for Medical ResearchNeuroscience
6 Sep 1876John J R Macleod was bornMacleodUniversity of AberdeenBicohemistry, Endocrinology
24 Nov 1876Hideyo Noguchi was bornNoguchiRockefeller InstituteBacteriology
28 Nov 1876Karl Ernst von Baer diedvon BaerSt Petersburg Academy of SciencesEmbryology
25 Dec 1876Adolf O R Windaus was born   
1877 - 1880Nucleic acid shown to have protein and non-protein componentsKosselUniversity of TubingenDNA
21 Oct 1877 Oswald Theodore 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

5 Apr 1870

Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USA

13 Jun 1870

Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, Belgium

19 Sep 1871

Fritz R Schaudinn was born

1872

Walther Flemming, German biologist, describes chromosomes and examines their behaviour during cell division.

25 Apr 1873

Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canada

21 May 1873

Hans Berger was born in Coburg, Germany

3 Jun 1873

Otto Loewi was born in Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany

28 Jun 1873

Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, France

5 Jan 1874

Joseph Erlanger was born in San Francisco CA, USA

9 Jun 1875

Henry H Dale was born in London, United Kingdom

6 Sep 1876

John J R Macleod was born

24 Nov 1876

Hideyo Noguchi was born

28 Nov 1876

Karl Ernst von Baer died

25 Dec 1876

Adolf O R Windaus was born

1877 - 1880

Nucleic acid shown to have protein and non-protein components

21 Oct 1877

Oswald Theodore Avery was born in Halifax, Canada

17 Nov 1878

Hans Zinsser was born

1879

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