Genetics: Timeline of key events

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Founded by Clarence Little, one of the leading researchers into genetic differences governing the rejection of foreign tissues. 1929-01-01T00:00:00+0000Ruddle helped pioneer human gene mapping and established many of the techniques and a framework for setting up the Human Genome Project. He generated, with Jon W. Gordon and George Scango the first successful transgenic mouse. This heralded the development of genetically modified animals as research models to investigate the function of genes and genetic cause of disease. Ruddle also discovered, with William McGinnis, the first human homeobox genes, important regulators of gene development. 1929-08-19T00:00:00+0000This was based on their experiments with the variegated colour pattern of maize kernels which showed that some genetic elements on the chromosome are capable of movement. They published their results in 'A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-Over in Zea Mays',PNAS, 7/8 (1931), 492-97. 1931-08-01T00:00:00+0000Michael Smith shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for a technique that enables researchers to introduce specific mutations into genes and, thus, to the proteins that they encode. He developed the method, known as site-directed mutagenesis, in the 1970s, in collaboration with Fred Sanger and Clyde A Hutchinson III. The advantage of the technique was that it allowed comparisons to be made of different protein molecules and provided a means to deliberately alter a specific gene thereby making it possible to modify the characteristics of an organism. His work opened up a new chapter for studying and treating genetic diseases. Site-directed mutagenesis is a pivotal tool today in genetic and protein research and engineering and at the forefront of the development of monoclonal antibody drugs. 1932-04-26T00:00:00+0000Temin shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for work on the interactions between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell. 1934-12-10T00:00:00+0000Altman is a molecular biologist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering the catalytic properties of RNA. This emerged out of some work Altman carried out between 1978 and 1983 on a bacterial enzyme called RNAs-P. His research helped transform the basic understanding of nuclear acids, which up to this moment had been understood to only carry genetic information. It also opened up the possibility of using genetic engineering to develop new forms of therapy against viral infections. 1939-05-07T00:00:00+0000Hartwell shared the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine for helping to discover protein molecules that regulate the cell cycle. This was based on his identification of more than 100 genes that control the growth and division of cells in baker's yeast in the late 1960s. He also discovered optional pauses in the cell cycle which allowed time for the repair of damaged DNA. This work has advanced the understanding of cancer and other diseases related to when the cell cycle breaks down. From 1997 to 2010 Hartwell served as the president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 1939-10-30T00:00:00+0000The mice were developed by George Snell. 1940-01-01T00:00:00+0000MK Barrett, 'The influence of genetic constitution upon the induction of resistance to transplantable tumors', Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 (1940), 387-93.1940-01-01T00:00:00+0000George Beadle and Edward Tatum, American geneticists, demonstrate that genes are responsible for the production of an enzyme. 1941-01-01T00:00:00+0000Evans shared the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering the 'principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells.'1941-01-01T00:00:00+0000C.H. Waddington, 'The Epigenotype', Endeavour, 1 (1942), 18-20.1942-01-01T00:00:00+0000Sulston is a biologist. He played a central role in sequencing the genome of the Caenorhabditis elegans, a transparent nematode (roundworm). It was the first animal to have its genome sequenced. Based on his work with the nematode Sulston helped set up the project to sequence the human genome which he did as director of the Sanger Centre. The first draft of the human genome sequence was completed in 2000. In 2002 he shared the Nobel Prize for identifying how genes regulate the life cycle of cells through apoptosis. 1942-03-27T00:00:00+0000Nusslein-Volhard shared the 1958 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries relating to genetic control of early embryonic development. She demonstrated this through her investigations of how genes regulate the early development of fruit flies. Her findings laid a pathway to understanding genetic defects in human embryos. 1942-10-20T00:00:00+0000Witkin discovered the radiation resistance after exposing E coli stain B bacteria to high doses of UV light. She subsequently worked out that the resistance was due to a particular genetic mutation in the bacteria strain which inhibited cell division. Witkin did the work under the guidance of Milislav Demerec at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. She published her findings in EM Witkin, 'A case of inherited resistance to radiation in bacteria', Genetics, 31 (1946) 236; EM Witkin, 'Inherited Differences in Sensitivity to Radiation in Escherichia Coli', PNAS USA, 32/3 (1946), 59–68. Witkin's work laid the foundation for showing that cell division is inhibited when DNA is damaged and was the first demonstration of a cell checkpoint. 1944-01-01T00:00:00+0000Sharp is a geneticist and molecular biologist. He shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of RNA splicing. This was awarded on the back of some research he did in 1977 which showed that RNA can be divided up into introns and exons, after which the exons can be joined together. This process can happen in different ways. It provides the means for the gene to form a number of different proteins. Sharp also co-founded Biogen, set up in 1978, and helped found Alnylam Pharmaceuticals and Magen Biosciences.1944-06-06T00:00:00+0000Morgan is considered the father of the modern science of genetics. He received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1933 for demonstrating how genes carried on chromosomes are the mechanical basis of hereditary. This he determined based on some cross-breeding experiments with the fruit fly (Drosophila) that he conducted between 1908 and 1911.1945-12-04T00:00:00+0000McClung 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. 1946-01-17T00:00:00+0000Kornberg is a biochemist whose research is focused on working out the mechanism and regulation of transcription, which is the first step in the pathway of gene expression. In 2006 he won the Nobel Prize for working out the protein pathway that a cell's genetic information takes when transferred to a new cell. He showed how information is carried from the genes and converted to molecules called messenger ribonucleic acid (RNA). This he worked out by mapping out the process in yeast. Kornberg was the first to work out how transcription works at a molecular level in eukaryotes, a group of organisms, including humans, whose cells have a well-defined nucleus. 1947-04-24T00:00:00+0000Horvitz is a biologist who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries into how genes regulate tissue and organ development through cell death. Critically he showed in 1986, through investigations of the nematode worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, that the process was controlled by two 'death genes', ced-3 and ced-4. He subsequently identifed another gene, ced-9, which protects against cell death by interacting with ced-3 and ced-4. Later on he found that humans had a counterpart ced-3 gene. His work on cell death, known as apoptosis, opened the door to the development of new cancer treatments.1947-05-08T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1929Jackson Memorial Laboratories established to develop inbred strains of mice to study the genetics of cancer and other diseases Jackson Memorial LaboratoroiesGenetics, Immunology, Oncology, Transgenic animals
19 Aug 1929Frank Ruddle was born in West New York, New JerseyRuddleYale UniversityGenetics, Transgenic, Cloning
Aug 1931Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton, her graduate student, provided first experimental proof that genes are positioned on chromosomesMcClintock, CreightonCornell UniversityGenetics, DNA
26 Apr 1932Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United KingdomSmithUniversity of British ColumbiaGene editing, Genetics, Monoclonal antibodies
10 Dec 1934Howard M Temin was born in Philadelphia PA, USATeminUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Virology, Oncology
7 May 1939Sidney Altman was born in Montreal, CanadaAltmannLaboratory of Molecular BiologyRNA, genetics
30 Oct 1939Leland H Hartwell was born in Los Angeles, CA, USAHartwellFred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterCell, Genetics
1940The first cogenic line of inbred mouse strains were developed, which helped determine the major histocompatibility complex, a set of genes that code for proteins found on the surfaces of cells which help the immune system recognise foreign substances. SnellJackson LaboratoryGenetics, Immunology
1940Inbred strains of mice bred at Jackson Memorial Laboratory showed that resistance to transplanted tumours were due to body's resistance to genetically different tissueBarrettJackson Memorial LaboratoroiesGenetics, Immunology, Oncology
1941Genes shown to regulate biochemical events within cellsBeadle, TatumStanford University Medical SchoolGenetics
1 Jan 1941Martin J Evans was born in Stroud, United KingdomEvansCardiff UniversityGenetics
1942'Epigenetics' coined as a term to describe how genes interact with the environment to produce the physical traits of an organism WaddngtonCambridge UniversityEpigenetics
27 Mar 1942John E Sulston born in Cambridge, United KingdomSulstonLaboratory of Molecular BiologyCell, Genetics, DNA sequencing
20 Oct 1942Christiane Nusslein-Volhard was born in Magdeburg, GermanyNusslein-VolhardMax-Planck-Institute for Developmental BiologyEmbyology, Genetics
1944Evelyn Witkin discovered radiation resistance in bactieraWitkinCold Spring Harbor LaboratoryGenetics, DNA
6 Jun 1944Phillip A Sharp was born in Falmouth, Kentucky, USASharpMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Biogen, Alynylam Pharmaceuticals, Magen BiosciencesRNA, genetics
4 Dec 1945Thomas Hunt Morgan diedMorganColumbia University, California Institute of TechnologyGenetics
17 Jan 1946Clarence E McClung diedMcClungUniversity of PennsylvaniaGenetics
24 Apr 1947Roger D Kornberg was born in St. Louis, MO, USAKornbergStanford UniversityGenetics, RNA
8 May 1947H Robert Horvitz was born in Chicago IL, USAHorvitzLaboratory of Molecular Biology, Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics

1929

Jackson Memorial Laboratories established to develop inbred strains of mice to study the genetics of cancer and other diseases

19 Aug 1929

Frank Ruddle was born in West New York, New Jersey

Aug 1931

Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton, her graduate student, provided first experimental proof that genes are positioned on chromosomes

26 Apr 1932

Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United Kingdom

10 Dec 1934

Howard M Temin was born in Philadelphia PA, USA

7 May 1939

Sidney Altman was born in Montreal, Canada

30 Oct 1939

Leland H Hartwell was born in Los Angeles, CA, USA

1940

The first cogenic line of inbred mouse strains were developed, which helped determine the major histocompatibility complex, a set of genes that code for proteins found on the surfaces of cells which help the immune system recognise foreign substances.

1940

Inbred strains of mice bred at Jackson Memorial Laboratory showed that resistance to transplanted tumours were due to body's resistance to genetically different tissue

1941

Genes shown to regulate biochemical events within cells

1 Jan 1941

Martin J Evans was born in Stroud, United Kingdom

1942

'Epigenetics' coined as a term to describe how genes interact with the environment to produce the physical traits of an organism

27 Mar 1942

John E Sulston born in Cambridge, United Kingdom

20 Oct 1942

Christiane Nusslein-Volhard was born in Magdeburg, Germany

1944

Evelyn Witkin discovered radiation resistance in bactiera

6 Jun 1944

Phillip A Sharp was born in Falmouth, Kentucky, USA

6 Jun 1944

Thomas Hunt Morgan died

17 Jan 1946

Clarence E McClung died

24 Apr 1947

Roger D Kornberg was born in St. Louis, MO, USA

8 May 1947

H Robert Horvitz was born in Chicago IL, USA