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.

Carrel 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 was a physiologist who shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine with Herbert Graasser for working out the actions of nerve fibers. This they achieved by modifying a Western Electric oscilloscope to run at low voltages. The innovation enabled them to discover that neurons come in many forms and transmit impulses at different rates. 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 a Prussian-Estonian biologist who helped found the discipline of embryology and developmental biology. Much of his early work was on chick embryology. In 1827 he published the first description of the mammalian egg cell. This was based on his investigations of the structure of the ovum in the dog. He found it to be a small yellow spot floating in follicular fluid. von Baer developed the germ-layer theory which holds that four layers of cells are formed in vertebrate eggs and that each layer always gives rise to certain tissues in the adult organism. Based on his research he also showed that while the early development of embryo of one species resembled that of other species, it passed through a number of states that became progressively different from each other so that the adult never resembles other species. 1876-11-28T00:00:00+0000Windaus was a German steroid chemist who helped discover 7-dehydrocholesterol, the chemical precursor of vitamin D in 1926. He showed that exposure to sunlight converted the molecule into vitamin D. His finding explained why sunlight was important to preventing rickets, a bone disease that afflicts humans who have a vitamin D deficiency. In 1928 Windaus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work on sterols and their relation to vitamins. He also helped work out the chemical steps involved in the transformation of cholesterol to vitamin D31876-12-25T00:00:00+0000Albrecht Kossel, German biochemist, shows that the substance called nuclein consists of a protein and non-protein component.1877-01-01T00:00:00+0000The technique was developed by Robert Koch. His method involved preparing thin layers of bacteria on glass slides and fixing them by gentle heat. 1877-01-01T00:00:00+0000Avery was a physician and bacteriologist who provided the first evidence that that genes are made up of DNA. In 1944 he and colleagues conducted a series of experiments in mice using two sets of bacteria, one smooth (virulent) and the other rough (nonvirulent), associated with pneumonia. In the first instance they injected the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which went on to die. Next they injected the non-virulent bacteria into a mouse, which survived. They then heated the virulent bacteria to kill it and injected it into a mouse, which survived. Following this they injected a mixture of heat-killed bacteria with the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which died. Finally they injected a mixture of harmless bacteria with DNA extracted from the heated lethal bacteria in a mouse which died. The experiment showed that the harmless bacteria became lethal when mixed with DNA from the virulent bacteria. 1877-10-21T00:00:00+0000Originally called chromatin, the chromosome is a rod like structure that is found inside the cell nucleus. It was discovered by Walther Flemming with the help of analine dyes. He also described the behaviour of chromosomes during cell division. Flemming first published a comprehensive outline of is findings in his book Zellsubstanz, Kern und Zelltheilung (Cell substance, nucleus and cell division) in 1882. 1878-01-01T00:00:00+0000The instrument was developed by Carl G P de Laval, a Swedish engineer. It was first used to separate cream for butter production for milk. 1878-01-01T00:00:00+0000Originally called chromatin, the chromosome is a rod like structure that is found inside the cell nucleus. It was discovered by Walther Flemming with the help of analine dyes. 1878-01-01T00:00:00+0000The idea was put forward by the Frernch physiologist Claude Berrnard1878-01-01T00:00:00+0000A physician and bacteriologist, Zinsser isolated the bacterium that causes typhus and developed a protective vaccine against it. In 1935 he published the book 'Rats, Live and History' in which he recounted the effects of typhus on mankind and the efforts to eradicate it. In the book he argued that disease was responsible for more deaths than war. 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+0000Schleiden was a botanist. Based on his study of plant structures under the microscope he helped develop the theory that cells are the basic structure in all organisms and the basic unit of reproduction. He also connected the cell nucleus with cell division and suggested that all embryonic plant cells arose from one cell. 1881-06-23T00:00:00+0000Fleming was a biologist and microbiologist. He first made his mark through his discovery of lysosyme in 1923. This is an enzyme produced in the tears, saliva, mucus and human milk which is an important part of the immune system. Today he is best known for having found penicillin, a mould subsequently developed as the first antibiotic drug to treat bacterial diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1950 for this discovery.1881-08-06T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
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, Reproduction
25 Dec 1876Adolf O R Windaus was born in Berlin, GermanyWindausUniversity of Innsbruck, University of GottingenBiochemistry
1877 - 1880Nucleic acid shown to have protein and non-protein componentsKosselUniversity of TubingenDNA
1877Technique developed for staining and identifying bacteriaKochBateriology 
21 Oct 1877 Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, CanadaAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA
1878Chromosomes and the process of mitiotic cell division first discoveredFlemmingUniversity of KielDNA, Genetics
1878The first centrifuge was inventedde Laval  
1878Chromosome first discoveredFlemming DNA, genetics
1878First idea that physiological systems of an organism could be maintained in a living system after the death of an organismBernard Cell culture
17 Nov 1878Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USAZinsserColumbia University, Stanford University, Harvard UniversityBacteriology, Vaccines
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
23 Jun 1881Matthias J Schleiden diedSchleiden University of JenaCell
6 Aug 1881Alexander Fleming was bornFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents

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 in Berlin, Germany

1877 - 1880

Nucleic acid shown to have protein and non-protein components


Technique developed for staining and identifying bacteria

21 Oct 1877

Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, Canada


Chromosomes and the process of mitiotic cell division first discovered


The first centrifuge was invented


Chromosome first discovered


First idea that physiological systems of an organism could be maintained in a living system after the death of an organism

17 Nov 1878

Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USA


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

23 Jun 1881

Matthias J Schleiden died

6 Aug 1881

Alexander Fleming was born