Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Von Euler was a physiologist and pharmacologist best known for working out the distribution and fate of noradrenaline in biological tissues and the nervous system. In 1970 he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the humoral transmittors in the nerve terminals and the mechanism for their storage, release and inactivation.'1905-02-07T00:00:00+0000Hitchings was an American physician who helped develop new methods to design drugs that took advantage of the biochemical differences between normal human cells and pathogens (disease-causing agents). The aim was to create a drug capable of killing or inhibiting the reproduction of pathogens without harming healthy cells. Numerous drugs were developed on the back of the method, including for leukaemia, malaria, and antiviral drugs for herpes infections and AIDS. He shared the 1988 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.'1905-04-18T00:00:00+0000Sterne pioneered a vaccine against anthrax in 1935 which effectively wiped out the disease. He used Pasteur's methods to develop the vaccine while based at Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute, north of Pretoria, in South Africa. His method remains the mainstay for the production of anthrax vaccines for livestock today. In addition to the vaccine he developed bacterial culture methods for both anthrax and botulism and his work laid the foundation for a number of highly successful veterinary and animal vaccines.1905-06-01T00:00:00+0000Flemming was a German biologist who is credited as the founder of cytogenetics. He was the first to describe the behaviour of chromosomes during cell division, a process he called mitosis. This he discovered through investigations of the fins and gills of salamanders. He first published his findings in 1878. In addition to his pioneering scientific work, Flemming is famous for his social activism. Notably he fed the homeless on a weekly basis and donated 20% of his salary to homeless shelters. He also taught mathematics and science to children too poor to attend school. 1905-08-04T00:00:00+0000An Australian virologist and physician, MacFarlane Burnet is most well known for his discovery of acquired immunological tolerance and demonstrating how the body recognises the difference between self and non-self. His work helped advance the development of vaccines, tissue transplantation, monoclonal antibodies and associated therapies. 1905-09-03T00:00:00+0000Chase discovered that white blood cells trigger the immune response in the body confronting a foreign invader. He laid the foundation for the discovery of lymphocyte cells and B and T cells.1905-09-17T00:00:00+0000A biochemist, Ochoa shared the 1959 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discovery of the mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.'1905-09-24T00:00:00+0000Nearly half of all rats now used in research are descendants from the WistarRat. 1906-01-01T00:00:00+0000Chain was a German Jewish biochemist who sought refuge in England from the Nazis in 1933. In the late 1930s he helped discover the therapeutic action of penicillin and how it could cure bacterial infections. He also managed to isolate the substance by freeze-drying the mold broth and work out its chemical composition. His work enabled the large-scale production of the compound. In 1945 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on penicillin. Aside from penicillin, Chain was involved in the development of fermentation techniques for the isolation of other biologically important molecules, including other antibiotics.1906-06-19T00:00:00+0000Schaudinn was a German 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. 1906-06-22T00:00:00+0000A German biophysicist, Delbruck helped discover how viruses replicate their genetic structure, showing that bacterial resistance from viruses is due to random mutation and not the result of adaptive changes. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on the back of this work. 1906-09-04T00:00:00+0000Leloir, an Argentinian physician and biochemist, won the 1970 winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for 'his discovery of sugar nucleotides and their role in the biosynthesis of carbohydrates.' 1906-09-06T00:00:00+0000Wald was an American biologist renowned for his research on how the eye passes images to the brain. He first made his mark in the early 1930s when he discovered that vitamin A was an important component in rhodopsin, a light-sensitive biological pigment found in the rods of the retina. Over the next 30 years he conducted a series of experiments which showed when exposed to light rhodopsin changes its form which triggers signals in a complicated network of optic nerve cells which eventually convert into visual impressions in the brain. In 1967 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.'physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.'1906-11-18T00:00:00+0000Reuben Ottenberg carries out the first successful blood transfusion using blood typing and cross-matching based on the use of antisera. 1907-01-01T00:00:00+0000Bovet won the 1957 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering 'synthetic compounds that inhibit the action of certain bodily substances, especially their action on the vascular system and the skeletal muscles.' This was awarded on the back of his discovery of antihistamines in 1937. Antihistamines block the neurotransmitter histamine and are now widely used to treat allergies. 1907-03-23T00:00:00+0000Pirie was a virus physiologist and biochemist. He helped determine that the genetic component of viruses was RNA. Before this viruses were thought to be made up completely of proteins. During World War II he explored the possibility of extracting edible proteins from leaves, research that he carried on into the 1970s. His experiments were directed towards solving the food problem posed by the growing world population. He hoped to replace the inefficient method of feeding animals to secure protein for the diet.1907-07-01T00:00:00+0000A Scottish biochemist, Todd helped elucidate the structure and synthesis of many of the building blocks of DNA and RNA: nucleotides, nucleosides and their co-enzymes. He also synthesised two important biochemical compounds: adenosine triphosphate (ATP) and flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD). 1907-10-02T00:00:00+0000Hamilton was a medical physicist who worked with the Manhattan Project to establish the safety of working with plutonium for laboratory personnel. He himself drank a radioactive sodium solution to test the toxicity of radioactive substances. His study of the medical effects of exposure to radioactive isotopes laid the foundation for the use of radioisotopes for treating and diagnosing disease. In particular, Hamilton showed that radioactive iodine would be useful for the diagnosis and treatment of thyroid disorders. 1907-11-11T00:00:00+0000The Russian histologist Alexander Maksimov proposes the term 'stem cell' for scientific usage.1908-01-01T00:00:00+0000P Ehrlich, 'About the current state of carcinoma research', Lecture given to students at Amsterdam University, Association of Scientific work, 19081908-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
7 Feb 1905Ulf von Euler was born in Stockholm, Swedenvon EulerKarolinska InstituteNeuroscience
18 Apr 1905George H Hitchings was born in Hoquiam, WA, USAHitchingsWellcome Research LaboratoriesPharmacology
1 Jun 1905Max Sterne was born in Trieste, AustriaSterneOnderstepoort Veterinary Research InstituteVaccine
4 Aug 1905Walther Flemming diedFlemmingUniversity of KielCell, Genetics
3 Sep 1905Frank Macfarlane Burnet was born in Traralgon, AustraliaBurnettWalter and Eliza Hall InstituteImmunology, Vaccine
17 Sep 1905Merrill W Chase born in Providence, RI, USAChaseRockefeller UniversityAntibodies
24 Sep 1905Severo Ochoa was born in Luarca, SpainOchoaNew York UniversityGenetics, DNA
1906Creation of the first standardised animal model for research - the WistarRat Wistar Institute 
19 Jun 1906Ernst B Chain was born in Berlin, GermanyChainOxford University, Imperial CollegeAntibacterial agents
22 Jun 1906Fritz R Schaudinn diedSchaudinnCharite – Universitatsmedizin BerlinBacteriology, Infectious diseases
4 Sep 1906Max Delbruck was born in Berlin, GermanyDelbruckCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
6 Sep 1906Luis F Leloir was born in Paris, FranceLeloirInstitute for Biochemical ResearchBiochemistry
Nov 1906George Wald was born in New York City, USAWaldHarvard University, Occular physiology
1907First successful blood transfusionOttenbergMount Sinai HospitalAntibodies
23 Mar 1907Daniel Bovet was born in Neuchatel, SwitzerlandBovetIstituto Superiore di Sanita Pharmacology
1 Jul 1907Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie was born in Eastbourne, UKPirie Rothamsted Experimental StationRNA, Virology
2 Oct 1907Alexander R Todd was born in Glasgow, ScotlandToddUniversity of ManchesterDNA
11 Nov 1907Joseph G Hamilton was born in the USAHamiltonUSA 
1908The term 'stem cell' is coinedMaximovPetrograd UniversityStem cells
1908Paul Ehrlich reports that spontaneously developed tumours can be suppressed by the immune system EhrlichGoettingen UniversityCancer immunotherapy

7 Feb 1905

Ulf von Euler was born in Stockholm, Sweden

18 Apr 1905

George H Hitchings was born in Hoquiam, WA, USA

1 Jun 1905

Max Sterne was born in Trieste, Austria

4 Aug 1905

Walther Flemming died

3 Sep 1905

Frank Macfarlane Burnet was born in Traralgon, Australia

17 Sep 1905

Merrill W Chase born in Providence, RI, USA

24 Sep 1905

Severo Ochoa was born in Luarca, Spain


Creation of the first standardised animal model for research - the WistarRat

19 Jun 1906

Ernst B Chain was born in Berlin, Germany

22 Jun 1906

Fritz R Schaudinn died

4 Sep 1906

Max Delbruck was born in Berlin, Germany

6 Sep 1906

Luis F Leloir was born in Paris, France

6 Sep 1906

George Wald was born in New York City, USA


First successful blood transfusion

23 Mar 1907

Daniel Bovet was born in Neuchatel, Switzerland

1 Jul 1907

Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie was born in Eastbourne, UK

2 Oct 1907

Alexander R Todd was born in Glasgow, Scotland

11 Nov 1907

Joseph G Hamilton was born in the USA


The term 'stem cell' is coined


Paul Ehrlich reports that spontaneously developed tumours can be suppressed by the immune system