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.

Lister 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+0000Stevens was an American biologist who was one of the first scientists to describe the importance of the Y chromosome for determining the sex of some species, and to recognise that females have two X chromosomes. This she determined after noting male beetles produced two kinds of sperm: each with different sized chromosomes. In 1905 she was awarded $1000 for the best scientific paper written by a women. Five years later she was listed as one of America's leading 1000 scientists by The New York Times. 1912-05-04T00:00:00+0000Axelrod was a pharmacologist and biochemist who shared the 1970 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the important role of neurotransmitters in the regulation of the nervous system. His work laid the foundation for the development of drugs for pain relief and a new class of antidepressants. Axelrod also helped demonstrate how the pineal gland is regulated during the sleep-awake cycle. 1912-05-30T00:00:00+0000Porter was a Canadian biologist. He is renowned for having developed many of the techniques and experimental approaches that underpinned the founding of cellular biology as a new discipline in biomedical research. Critically he developed the first electron microscope techniques to get high resolution images of cells and tissues. In 1945 he published the first electron microgragh of a complete animal cell. His other major contributions to the field was his development a roller-flask for culturing cells and helping to invent an instrument for getting ultra-thin slices of tissue for microscopy.1912-06-11T00:00:00+0000Luria shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.'1912-08-13T00:00:00+0000Palade helped determine cell function and organization. He and colleagues demonstrated that all plant cells and some animal and bacteria cells have a vacuole, an enclosed compartment in the cell membrane, which contains enzymes essential to maintaining the cell's health.1912-11-19T00:00:00+0000Mazia was a cell biologist whose passion was to understand how cells reproduce. As a doctoral research he was one of the first to establish the role of calcium in the egg activation in the process of fertilisation. Following this worked on the process of cell division, structure and division. He is best known for the work he did in 1931 which helped identify the cell structure responsible for mitosis, the process when a eukaryotic cell divides chromosomes into two identical daughter cells. Mazia also determined how the nucleus and chromosomes change during the cell cycle.1912-12-18T00:00:00+0000Alfred Sturtevant, an American geneticist, experimenting with Drosophila flies, determines that genes are arranged on chromosomes in a linear fashion, like beads on a necklace. 1913-01-01T00:00:00+0000Steptoe was an obstetrtician and gynaecologist who co-pioneered in vitro fertilization, the technique that produced the first test tube baby, Louise Brown, in 1978. This involved collecting ova from Louise's mother using laparoscopy. While Steptoe faced a lot of criticism for his work, many clinics began offering IVF following the birth of Louise. 1913-06-09T00:00:00+0000Sperry was a neuropsychologist and neurobiologst. He is best known for having shown that the two hemispheres of the brain function independently of one another and have completely different functions, a phenomenon he called the 'split brain'. This he determined based on experiments in 1950s and 1960s. In the first set of experiments he severed the corpus callosum, the large bundle of neurons that connects the two parts of the brain, in cats and monkeys. Later he studied humans who had had their corpus callosum severed as part of their treatment for epilepsy. He was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1981 for 'discoveries concerning the functional specialization of the cerebral hemispheres.'1913-08-20T00:00:00+0000A biochemist, Moore shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for contributions to the 'understanding of the connection between chemical structure and catalytic activity of the active centre of the ribonuclease molecule.'1913-09-04T00:00:00+0000 JB Murphy, 'Studies on tissue specificity', Journal of Experimental Medicine, 19 (1914), 181-86.1914-01-01T00:00:00+0000Hodgkin shared the 1963 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane.'1914-02-05T00:00:00+0000Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell.' His work not only aided better understanding of how viruses cause cancer but also HIV. 1914-02-22T00:00:00+0000Perutz fled Austria in 1936 with his Jewish family just after he completed a degree in chemistry at the University of Vienna. Moving to Britain he became involved in X-ray crystallography at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, using the method to study the structure of proteins. In 1959 he managed to work out the structure of haemoglobin, the protein responsible for transporting oxygen in blood. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for this work in 1962. His research paved the way to understanding how the molecule switches between its deoxygenated and its oxygenated states and oxygen is taken up by muscles and other organs. Pertuz was also the founder and first director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biololgy in Cambridge, set up in 1962.1914-05-19T00:00:00+0000Synge shared the 1952 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the invention of partition chromatography, a techique used to separate amino acids in the study of proteins, carbohydrates and DNA.1914-10-28T00:00:00+0000A medical researcher and virologist, Salk pioneered the first safe and effective polio vaccine. Introduced in 1955, Salk's vaccine helped curb one of the most frightening public health diseases in the world. Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial to test his vaccine. His vaccine used killed vaccine rather than weakened forms of the strain of polio used by Sabin to develop another vaccine against the disease. Salk refused to patent his vaccine and made his technique as widely available as possible. His polio vaccine is now on the World Health Organisation's List of Essential Medicine.1914-10-28T00:00:00+0000Speigelman developed the nucleic acid hybridization technique that enables specific DNA and RNA strands to be removed from cells and is the foundation of present day recombinant DNA technology. 1914-12-14T00:00:00+0000The experiments involved increasing the number of lymphocytes in the blood of mice by treating them with low doses of X-rays. JB Murphy, JJ Morton, 'The effects of X-rays on the resistance to cancer in mice', Science, 42 (1915), 842. 1915-01-01T00:00:00+0000Medawar was a zoologist and biologist whose studies of graft rejection demonstrated the principle of acquired immunological tolerance, the state by which substances originally considered foreign become regarded as self by the immune system. This finding laid the foundation for tissue and organ transplantation. In 1960 Medawar was awarded the Nobel Prize for the work he did in the area. 1915-02-28T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
10 Feb 1912Joseph Lister diedListerGalsgow University, King's College London 
4 May 1912Nettie Maria Stevens diedStevensBryn Mawr College, Carnegie InstituteGenetics
30 May 1912Julius Axelrod was born in New York, NY, USAAxelrodNational Institutes of HealthNeuroscience
11 Jun 1912Keith Roberts Porter was born in Yarmough, Nova Scotia, CanadaPorterHarvard University, University of ColoradoCell
13 Aug 1912Salvador E Luria was born in Torino, ItalyLuriaMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
19 Nov 1912George E Palade was born in Iasi, RomaniaPaladeRockefeller UniversityCell
18 Dec 1912Daniel Mazia was born Scranton, PA, USAMaziaUniversity of California BerkeleyCell, Genetics, Reproduction
1913First mapping of a chromosomeSturtevantColumbia UniversityDNA
9 Jun 1913Patrick Steptoe was born in Oxford, United KingdomSteptoeOxford, United KingdomReproduction
20 Aug 1913Roger W Sperry was born in Hartford CT, USASperryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyNeuroscience
4 Sep 1913Stanford Moore was born in Chicago IL, USAMooreRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry
1914Experiments by James B Murphy demonstrate that lymphocytes help animals reject grafted tumoursMurphyRockefeller IntituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
5 Feb 1914Alan Lloyd Hodgkin was born in Banbury, United KingdomHodgkinCambridge UniversityNeuroscience
22 Feb 1914Renato Dulbecco was born in Catanzaro, ItalyDulbeccoImperial Cancer Research Fund LaboratoryGenetics, Virology, Oncology
19 May 1914Max F Perutz was born in Vienna, AustriaPerutzLaboratory of Molecular BiologyBiochemistry
28 Oct 1914Richard L M Synge was born in Liverpool, United KingdomSyngeRowett Research InstituteAnalytical chemistry
28 Oct 1914Jonas Salk was born in New York City, USASalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccine
14 Dec 1914Solomon Spiegelman was born in Brooklyn, NY, USASpiegelmanUniversity of MinnesotaRecombinant DNA
1915 James B Murphy puts forward hypothesis that the nonspecific stimulation of lymphocytes could provide a cure for cancer based on experiments he and John J Morton carried out on miceMurphy, MortonRockefeller InstituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
28 Feb 1915Peter Brian Medawar was born in Rio de Janeiro, BrazilMedawarUniversity College LondonImmunology, Transplantation

10 Feb 1912

Joseph Lister died

4 May 1912

Nettie Maria Stevens died

30 May 1912

Julius Axelrod was born in New York, NY, USA

11 Jun 1912

Keith Roberts Porter was born in Yarmough, Nova Scotia, Canada

13 Aug 1912

Salvador E Luria was born in Torino, Italy

19 Nov 1912

George E Palade was born in Iasi, Romania

18 Dec 1912

Daniel Mazia was born Scranton, PA, USA

1913

First mapping of a chromosome

9 Jun 1913

Patrick Steptoe was born in Oxford, United Kingdom

20 Aug 1913

Roger W Sperry was born in Hartford CT, USA

4 Sep 1913

Stanford Moore was born in Chicago IL, USA

1914

Experiments by James B Murphy demonstrate that lymphocytes help animals reject grafted tumours

5 Feb 1914

Alan Lloyd Hodgkin was born in Banbury, United Kingdom

22 Feb 1914

Renato Dulbecco was born in Catanzaro, Italy

19 May 1914

Max F Perutz was born in Vienna, Austria

28 Oct 1914

Richard L M Synge was born in Liverpool, United Kingdom

28 Oct 1914

Jonas Salk was born in New York City, USA

14 Dec 1914

Solomon Spiegelman was born in Brooklyn, NY, USA

1915

James B Murphy puts forward hypothesis that the nonspecific stimulation of lymphocytes could provide a cure for cancer based on experiments he and John J Morton carried out on mice

28 Feb 1915

Peter Brian Medawar was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil