Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Wilhelm Johannsen uses the word gene for the first time to describe units of heredity in his book Elemente der exakten Erblichkeitslehre. The book becomes the founding text of genetics. 1909-01-01T00:00:00+0000Paul Ehrlich, German scientist, suggests that one day it will be possible to use antibodies as compounds to target disease.1909-01-01T00:00:00+0000Levi-Montalcini is best known for sharing the Nobel Prize in 1986 for helping to discover and isolate the nerve growth factor which helps regulate the growth, maintenance, proliferation and survival of certian neurons. Banned by Mussolini from working in academia because she was Jewish, Levi-Montalcini conducted much of her early work in a makeshift laboratory in her bedroom. She later became the director of the Research Center of Neurobiology and the Laboratory of Cellular Biology in Washington University and founded the European Brain Research Institute. 1909-04-22T00:00:00+0000Tatum shared the 1958 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the 'discovery that genes act by regulating definite chemical events.'1909-12-14T00:00:00+0000Phoebus Levene, a Russian-American biochemist, describes the building blocks of DNA, including four types of bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) .1910-01-01T00:00:00+0000Thomas Hunt Morgan, American evolutionary biologist, links the inheritance of a specific trait with a particular chromosome in fruit flies (Drosophila). 1910-01-01T00:00:00+0000E. Freund, G. Kaminer, 'Ueber die Beziehungen zwischen Tumorzellen und Blutserum', Biochem. Ztschr, 26 (1910) 26, 312-24.1910-01-01T00:00:00+0000Martin was a biochemist who shared the 1952 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the 'invention of partition chromatography.' This he helped develop at the Wool Industries Research Association. Developed to help separate amino acids, partition chromatography is now deployed in most laboratories for the separation of compounds into their components. The new method used columns of silica with water and was known as 'partition chromatography' because of the way the sample 'partitioned' itself between two liquid phases. Martin later helped develop gas-liquid chromatography. 1910-03-01T00:00:00+0000van Beneden was a Belgian cytologist and embryologist. He worked out how chromosomes divide during cell meiosis. Based on studies of an intestinal worm found in horses, he also showed that fertilisation involves the union of two half-nuclei, one form the male sperm cell and one from the female egg, each containing half the the number of chromosomes found in all cells. He later demonstrated that the chromosome number is constant for every body cell in each species. 1910-04-28T00:00:00+0000Fraenkel-Conrat was a biochemist who discovered that RNA is pivotal to the genetic control of viral reproduction and that it is carried in the nucelic core of each virus. He made this finding in 1955 during experiments with the tobacco mosaic virus. By 1960 he had determined the complete sequence of the 159 amino acids in the virus.1910-04-29T00:00:00+0000Dorothy Hodgkin, was a British biochemist who developed protein crystallography and X-ray crystallography which was used to confirm the structure of penicillin, for which she won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1964.1910-05-10T00:00:00+0000The research was carried out by Peyton Rous. The idea that a virus could cause cancer was greeted with scepticism in the scientific community.1911-01-01T00:00:00+0000Galton is best known as an early pioneer of Eugenics1911-01-17T00:00:00+0000Kolff invented the first kidney dialysis machine in 1943 as a young physician working at the University of Groningen Hospital in the Netherlands. He pioneered the machine after watching a young man die slowly from kidney failure. The machine saves the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients with chronic kidney disease each year.1911-02-14T00:00:00+0000Katz was a physician and biophysicist who was forced to flee Nazi Germany for Britain as a child because of his Jewish background. He is best known for having uncovered the properties of synapses, the junction between two nerve cells where signals pass between nerve cells and other types of cells. 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.' His work laid the foundation for investigations into the effects of nerve agents and pesticides. 1911-03-26T00:00:00+0000Lynen was a biochemist who was director of the Max Plank Institute for Cellular Chemistry. He is best known for having helped determine the chemical mechanism for the production and regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. In 1964 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for this work. His findings opened the pathway to understanding the role of cholesterol in heart disease and stroke. 1911-04-06T00:00:00+0000Stein shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for contributing to understanding the 'connection between chemical structure and catalytic activity of the active centre of the ribonuclease molecule.'1911-06-25T00:00:00+0000Jerne shared the 1984 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system' and laying the foundation for the production of monoclonal antibodies.1911-12-23T00:00:00+0000Bloch shared the 1964 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the mechanism and regulation of the cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism.'1912-01-21T00:00:00+0000Lister pioneered the practice of cleanliness in surgery by introducing the routine use of carbolic acid on surgical instruments and wounds. He developed these methods at Glasgow Royal Infirmary after being inspired by the work of Louis Pasteur. Lister's ideas about the transmission of infection and the use of antiseptics were initially mocked by his peers and it took time for the surgeons to accept them. The adoption of Lister's techniques dramatically reduced the incidence of post-operative infections and improved the safety of surgery. 1912-02-10T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1909The term gene is first usedJohannsenUniversity of CopenhagenDNA
1909Antibodies put forward as potential 'magic bullets' for medicineEhrlichRoyal Institute of Experimental TherapyAntibodies
22 Apr 1909Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin, ItalyLevi-MontalciniWashington UniversityCell, Biochemistry, Neuroscience
14 Dec 1909Edward Lawrie Tatum was born in Boulder CO, USATatumRockefeller UniversityGenetics
1910First description of the building blocks of DNALeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
1910Chromosomes linked with hereditary traitsMorganColumbia UniversityGenetics
1910Austrian physicians Ernest Freund and Gisa Kaminer observed that something in blood serum from cancer patients pervents the destruction of cancer cellsFreund, KaminerRudolf-Stiftung HospitalImmune checkpoint inhibitors, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
1 Mar 1910Archer J P Martin was born in London, United KingdomMartinNational Institute for Medical ResearchAnalytical chemistry
28 Apr 1910Edouard van Beneden diedvan Beneden University of LiegeCell, Genetics, DNA
29 Apr 1910Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat was bornFraenkel-Conrat University of California BerkeleyGenetics, Virology
10 May 1910Dorothy M Crowfoot Hodgkin was born in Cairo, EgyptHodgkinCairo, EgyptX-ray crystallography, Biochemistry
1911Research provided the first evidence that virus transmits cancer in chickensRousRockefeller InstituteImmunology, Oncology, Virology
17 Jan 1911Francis Galton diedGalton Genetics
14 Feb 1911Willem J Kolff was born Leiden, NetherlandsKolff Transplantation
26 Mar 1911Bernard Katz was born in Leipzig, GermanyKatzUniversity College LondonNeuroscience
6 Apr 1911Feodor Lynen was born in Munich, GermanyLynenMax-Planck-Institute for Cellular ChemistryBiochemistry
25 Jun 1911William H Stein was born in New York NY, USASteinRockefeller UniversityRNA
23 Dec 1911Niels K Jerne was born in London, United KingdomJerneBasel Institute for ImmunologyImmunology, Monoclonal antibodies
21 Jan 1912Konrad Bloch was born in Neisse (now Nysa), Germany (now Poland)BlochHarvard UniversityBiochemistry
10 Feb 1912Joseph Lister diedListerGalsgow University, King's College London 


The term gene is first used


Antibodies put forward as potential 'magic bullets' for medicine

22 Apr 1909

Rita Levi-Montalcini was born in Turin, Italy

14 Dec 1909

Edward Lawrie Tatum was born in Boulder CO, USA


First description of the building blocks of DNA


Chromosomes linked with hereditary traits


Austrian physicians Ernest Freund and Gisa Kaminer observed that something in blood serum from cancer patients pervents the destruction of cancer cells

1 Mar 1910

Archer J P Martin was born in London, United Kingdom

28 Apr 1910

Edouard van Beneden died

29 Apr 1910

Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat was born

10 May 1910

Dorothy M Crowfoot Hodgkin was born in Cairo, Egypt


Research provided the first evidence that virus transmits cancer in chickens

17 Jan 1911

Francis Galton died

14 Feb 1911

Willem J Kolff was born Leiden, Netherlands

26 Mar 1911

Bernard Katz was born in Leipzig, Germany

6 Apr 1911

Feodor Lynen was born in Munich, Germany

25 Jun 1911

William H Stein was born in New York NY, USA

23 Dec 1911

Niels K Jerne was born in London, United Kingdom

21 Jan 1912

Konrad Bloch was born in Neisse (now Nysa), Germany (now Poland)

10 Feb 1912

Joseph Lister died