Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Schleiden 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+0000The stem cell is conceived as a distinctive cell which serves as the starting point for blood formation.1882-01-01T00:00:00+0000Darwin was an English naturalist best known for developing the theory that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry. His book On the Origin of Species, published in 1859, outlined his evidence for his theory of evolution. While initially rejected, his explanation of natural selection as the basic mechanism for evolution achieved broad consensus by 1930s and was accepted as a unifying theory for the diversity of life. 1882-04-19T00:00:00+0000Galton publishes the term in his book 'Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development'. 1883-01-01T00:00:00+0000Mendel is today considered the father of modern genetics. An Augustinian monk, Mendel helped establish the basic laws of genetic inheritance by studying the traits between different pea plant generations. Mendel conducted this research between 1853 and 1863. Based on experiments with tens of thousands of different plants, Mendel established that peas followed certain patterns in terms of the traits they inherited. He published his results in 1866, but he did little to promote his work. The importance of his work was only grasped many decades later after his death. 1884-01-06T00:00:00+0000Schwann was a German physiologist who defined the cell as the basic unit of animal tissue structure. This laid the foundation for the study of cell biology.1884-01-11T00:00:00+0000Meyerhof was a physician and biochemist who was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of the 'fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle.' In 1938 he was forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his Jewish background which entailed leaving the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medicine where he was a director from 1929. He was appointed a guest professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 1884-04-12T00:00:00+0000Svedberg was a nuclear scientist who in 1923 invented the analytical ultracentrifuge, a high speed centrifuge that makes it possible to spin large molecules at forces in excess of a million times the force of gravity. This provided a means to separate large macromolecules such as proteins out of a solution. Svedberg used his ultracentrifuge to work out the relative molecular masses of large molecules in high polymers and proteins. He managed to determine the molecular weight of haemoglobin in blood and casein in milk. Svedberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1926 for his invention of the analytical ultracentrifuge. which he used to research colloids and proteins.1884-08-30T00:00:00+0000Albrecht Kossel isolates and describes five organic compounds present in nucleic acids as being adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. 1885-01-01T00:00:00+0000The outbreak was probably caused by blood contamination of the lymph used in the smallpox vaccination. Of 1129 vaccinated shipworkers, 191 developed jaundice. A. Lurman, 'Eine icterusepidemic', Berl Klin Wehnschr, 22 (1885), 20-23; J. Jehn, 'Eine Ikterusepidemie in wahrscheinlichem. Zusam-menhang mit vorausgegangener Revaccination', Dtsch Med.Wochenschr, 11 (1885), 339.1885-01-01T00:00:00+0000Louis Pasteur successfully tested his rabies vaccine on a nine year old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog.1885-07-06T00:00:00+0000Kendall made several contributions to biochemistry and medicine. He is best known for isolating the steroid cortisone from the adrenal gland cortex, subsequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1950. He also isolated thyroxine, the main hormone secreted by the thyroid gland which is vital to digestion, heart and muscle function and brain development and bone maintenance. 1886-03-08T00:00:00+0000Robinson's work on the nature and structure of organic compounds laid the foundation for the synthesis of pencillin and anti-malarial drugs. 1886-09-13T00:00:00+0000Goodpasture developed a method of culturing viruses in chicken embryos and fertilized chicken eggs. Before this viruses were grown in living tissues which could be contaminated by bacteria. Goodpasture's method laid the foundation for the development of vaccines for smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and chicken pox.1886-10-17T00:00:00+0000Rose was a biochemist and nutritionist. He isolated the amino acid threonine in 1932 and demonstrated in rats that a diet that lacked the amino acid stunted their growth. By 1949 he had established that ten amino acids were vital to human health: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Based on this work he was appointed to the US Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council which drew up dietary recommendations. 1887-04-04T00:00:00+0000Houssay was a physiologist. He is best known for having discovered how the pituitary gland regulates glucose or blood sugar levels. This he determined while studying the pituitary gland in dogs and toads during the early 1940s. In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize on the back of this achievement. He was the first Latin American to receive the Nobel Laureate in the sciences. The award was particularly poignant given that four years before he had been dismissed by the Argentinian military government from his position at the University of Buenos Aires Medical school where he had built up an internationally respected department in experimental physiology and medicine from 1919. He was later reinstated in 1955 following the fall of Juan Peron from power. 1887-04-10T00:00:00+0000Sumner was a biochemist who showed that enzymes are proteins and can be crystalised for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946. He crystalised his first enzyme, urease, in 1926. This he achieved by mixing purified urease with acetone and then chilling it. Using chemical tests he showed the enzyme was a protein. His work provided the first proof that enzymes were proteins1887-11-19T00:00:00+00001888-01-01T00:00:00+0000Heidelberger was one of the founders of immunochemistrty, a branch of biochemistry that investigates the mammalian immune system at the molecular level. He first made his mark in 1923 when he found, with Oswald Avery, that that the immune system could target bacterial sugars. The two scientists made the discovery while investigating a capsular substance that envelops pneumococcus and other species of bacteria. Their work helped determine that antibodies were proteins. It also paved the way to improving the production of more effective serum therapies for the prevention of bacterial infectious diseases like pneumonia and meningitis. 1888-04-29T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
23 Jun 1881Matthias J Schleiden diedSchleiden University of JenaCell
6 Aug 1881Alexander Fleming was bornFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents
1882Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first timeHaeckel, Dantchakoff, Pappenheim, Ehrlich, MaximowUniversity of Jena, Charite Hospital, Koch Institute, Petrograd University Stem cells
19 Apr 1882Charles Darwin diedDarwin Evolution
1883The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious matingGalton Genetics
6 Jan 1884Gregor Johann Mendel diedMendel Genetics
11 Jan 1884Theodor Schwann diedSchwannUniversity of LiegeCell
12 Apr 1884Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, GermanyMeyerhofKiel University, University of PennsylvaniaMetabolism
30 Aug 1884Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, SwedenSvedbergUppsala UniversityBiochemistry
1885 - 1901Nucleic acids structure determinedKosselInstitute of Physiology, University of Berlin, University of MarburgDNA
1885Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymphLurman  
1885First rabies vaccine testedPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology, Vaccine
8 Mar 1886Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USAKendallMayo ClinicBiochemistry, Endocrinology
13 Sep 1886Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United KingdomRobinsonOxford UniversityAntibacterial agents
17 Oct 1886Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USAGoodpastureHarvard UniversityVirology, Vaccine
4 Apr 1887William C Rose was born Greenville, South Carolina, USARoseUniversity of IllinoisNutrition, Biochemistry
10 Apr 1887Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, ArgentinaHoussayUniversity of Buenos AiresMetabolism
19 Nov 1887James B Sumner was born in Canton MA, USASumnerCornell UniversityBiochemistry
1888Term 'chromosome' coined by Edouard van Beneden, denoting 'coloured bodies'Beneden  
29 Apr 1888Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USAHeidelbergerRockefeller Institute, Columbia UniversityAntibodies, Immunology

23 Jun 1881

Matthias J Schleiden died

6 Aug 1881

Alexander Fleming was born


Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first time

19 Apr 1882

Charles Darwin died


The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious mating

6 Jan 1884

Gregor Johann Mendel died

11 Jan 1884

Theodor Schwann died

12 Apr 1884

Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, Germany

30 Aug 1884

Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, Sweden

1885 - 1901

Nucleic acids structure determined


Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymph


First rabies vaccine tested

8 Mar 1886

Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USA

13 Sep 1886

Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United Kingdom

17 Oct 1886

Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USA

4 Apr 1887

William C Rose was born Greenville, South Carolina, USA

10 Apr 1887

Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina

19 Nov 1887

James B Sumner was born in Canton MA, USA


Term 'chromosome' coined by Edouard van Beneden, denoting 'coloured bodies'

29 Apr 1888

Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USA