Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Kocher won the 1909 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research and surgical techniques involving the thyroid.1917-07-27T00:00:00+0000Buchner was a chemist and zymologist. In 1907 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his discovery of cell-free fermentation. This was based on some experiments he carried out in 1897, during which he found that yeast extract could form alcohol from a sugar solution without any living cells. He discovered that the fermentation was driven by an enzyme, zymase, inside the yeast cells. It provided the first evidence that biochemical processes were driven by enzymes formed inside cells. He was killed in the First World War while serving as a general. 1917-08-13T00:00:00+0000Chatterjee is renowned for her breakthroughs in the development of anti-malarial and anti-epileptic drugs. She was the first woman to receive a doctorate in science from an Indian university - Calcutta University.1917-09-23T00:00:00+0000de Duve was a cytologist and biochemist. The son of Belgian refugees who fled to England during World War I, de Duve is associated with the discovery of peroxisome and lysosome in the 1950s and 1960s. They are two specialised subunits found within the cell and are vital to the function of the cell. His work paved the way to unravelling the biology of several genetic diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1974 on the back of his 'discoveries concerning the structural and functional organisation of the cell.' de Duve helped determine the structure and function of parts of the cell. 1917-10-02T00:00:00+0000Porter shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the chemical structure of antibodies.'1917-10-08T00:00:00+0000Huxley was a physiologist and biophysicist who helped uncover the mechanism of muscle contraction in 1954 through experiments on the giant axon of the Atlantic Squid. His study of muscle fibres was helped by his development of interference microscopy. Huxley shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1963 for 'discoveries concerning the ionic mechanisms involved in excitation and inhibition in the peripheral and central portions of the nerve cell membrane'. 1917-11-22T00:00:00+0000Elion was a biochemist and pharmacologist renowned for developing 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. Elion helped develop a number of drugs for a variety of diseases, including leukaemia and malaria. One of her most notable achievements was the creation of the first immunosuppressive drug for organ transplant patients. In 1988 she was joined awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 'discoveries of important principles for drug treatment.'1918-01-23T00:00:00+0000A geneticist by training, Sager enjoyed two careers. She first made her mark in the 1950s and 1950s when she discovered the transmission of genetic traits through chloroplast DNA. This was the first example of genetics not involving the cell nucleus. Later on she became a major pioneer in cancer genetics in the early 1970s and was one of the first to propose and investigate the function of tumour suppressor genes. 1918-02-07T00:00:00+0000Kornberg was a biochemist renowned for his research on enzymes which create DNA. In 1956 he and his team isolated the first enzyme known to be involved in the replication of DNA. It would be called DNA polymerase I. For this work Kornberg shared the 1959 Nobel Prize for Medicine. The Prize was given for the discovery of the 'mechanisms in the biological synthesis of ribonucleic acid and deoxyribonucleic acid.'1918-03-03T00:00:00+0000Lewis was a developmental geneticist who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development. He made these discoveries based on the fruit fly. By crossbreeding thousands of flies he demonstrated that genes were arranged on the chromosome in the same order as their body segments, whereby the first set of genes controls the development of the head and thorax, the middle set the abdomen, and the final set the hind parts. He also discovered that the genetic regulatory functions could overlap. A fly with a defective gene in the thoracic region could develop an extra set of wings. His work helped explain the causes of congenital deformities. 1918-05-20T00:00:00+0000Krebs was a biochemist who in 1933 was forced to leave Nazi Germany because his father was Jewish. He is best known for having discovered two important chemical reactions in the body - the urea cycle and the citric acid cycle. These chemical reactions help break down food molecules into carbon dioxide, water and energy. He made the breakthrough in the 1930s. The process is known as the Krebs cycle. Krebs was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1954.1918-06-06T00:00:00+0000Boyer shared the 1997 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for elucidating the 'enzymatic mechanism underlying the synthesis of adenosine triphosphate.'1918-07-31T00:00:00+0000The first to determine the DNA sequence of insulin, Sanger proved proteins have a defined chemical composition. He was also pivotal to the development of the dideoxy chain-termination method for sequencing DNA molecules, known as the Sanger method. This provided a breakthrough in the sequencing of long stretches of DNA in terms of speed and accuracy and laid the foundation for the Human Genome Project. 1918-08-13T00:00:00+0000Skou shared the 1997 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering an ion-transporting enzyme.1918-10-08T00:00:00+0000Karl Ereky, a Hungarian Engineer, introduced the term biotechnology to describe his use of of sugar beets as the source of food for large scale production of pigs. Ereky defined biotechnology as all lines of work by which products are produced from raw materials with the aid of living things. He published the term in his book Biotechnologie der Fleisch, Fett und Milcherzeugung im landwirtschaftlichen Grossbetriebe. Ereky went on to develop the idea that biotechnology could help solve food and energy shortages. 1919-01-01T00:00:00+0000Murray was a plastic surgeon. He performed the first successful kidney transplant between identical twins in 1954. The operation last five and half hours and involved the transplantation of a healthy kidney from Robert Herrick into his twin brother, Richard, who was dying of chronic nephritis. Four years later Murray performed the first successful transplant from a non-identical donor and in 1962 the first cadaveric renal transplant. In 1990 Murray shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease.' 1919-04-01T00:00:00+0000Fischer won the 1902 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for demonstrating the structure of biological compounds, including sugars proteins and purines. 1919-07-15T00:00:00+0000Benesch was a biochemist who co-discovered how haemoglobin transports oxygen during respiration. 1919-08-13T00:00:00+0000Hounsfield shared the 1979 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'the development of computer assisted tomography.'1919-08-28T00:00:00+0000Thomas was a physician who was a major pioneer of cell and organ transplantation. He is best known for his development of bone marrow transplants, which became a life-saving treatment for blood cancers. Donnall developed the technique on the back of research carried out in the Manhattan Project which showed that 'factors' released by spleen cells stimulated the recovery of irradiated bone marrow. In 1993 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on the basis of this research.1920-03-15T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
27 Jul 1917Emil Theodor Kocher diedKocher  
13 Aug 1917Eduard Buchner diedBuchnerUniversity of WurzburgBiochemistry
23 Sep 1917Asima Chatterjee was born in Bengal, IndiaChatterjeeUniversity of Calcutta 
2 Oct 1917Christian R de Duve was born in Thames Ditton, United Kingdomde DuveRockefeller UniversityCell
8 Oct 1917Rodney R Porter was born in Newton-le-Willows, United KingdomPorterOxford UniversityAntibodies
22 Nov 1917Andrew F Huxley was born in Hampstead, United KingdomHuxleyCambridge University, University College LondonCell, Neuroscience
23 Jan 1918Gertrude B Elion was born in New York NY, USAElionWellcome Research LaboratoriesPharmacology
7 Feb 1918Ruth Sager was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, USASagerRockefeller UniversityGenetics, Oncology
3 Mar 1918Arthur Kornberg was born in Brooklyn NY, USAKornbergStanford UniversityGenetics, DNA, RNA
20 May 1918Edward B Lewis was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, USALewisCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Embryology
6 Jun 1918Hans Adolf Krebs was born in Hildesheim, GermanyKrebsUniversity of Freiburg, Cambridge University, Sheffield University, Oxford UniversityCell, Biochemistry
31 Jul 1918Paul D Boyer was born in Provo UT, USABoyerUniversity of California, Los AngelesBiochemistry
13 Aug 1918Frederick Sanger, twice Nobel Prize winner, bornSangerRendcomb, Gloucestershire, United KingdomDNA Sequencing
8 Oct 1918Jens C Skou was born in Lemvig, DenmarkSkouAarhus UniversityBiochemistry
1919First use of the term 'biotechnology'ErekyJozsef Technical University 
1 Apr 1919Joseph E Murray was born in Milford MA, USAMurrayBrigham and Women's HospitalTransplantation, Immunology
15 Jul 1919Hermann Emil Fischer diedFischerUniversity of BerlinBiochemistry
13 Aug 1919Reinhold Benesch was born in PolandBeneschColumbia UnivesityBiochemistry
28 Aug 1919Godfrey N Hounsfield was born in Newark, United KingdomHounsfieldCentral Research LaboratoriesDiagnostic imaging
15 Mar 1920Edward Donnall Thomas was born in Mart, Texas, USAThomasFred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterTransplantaion, Immunology

27 Jul 1917

Emil Theodor Kocher died

13 Aug 1917

Eduard Buchner died

23 Sep 1917

Asima Chatterjee was born in Bengal, India

2 Oct 1917

Christian R de Duve was born in Thames Ditton, United Kingdom

8 Oct 1917

Rodney R Porter was born in Newton-le-Willows, United Kingdom

22 Nov 1917

Andrew F Huxley was born in Hampstead, United Kingdom

23 Jan 1918

Gertrude B Elion was born in New York NY, USA

7 Feb 1918

Ruth Sager was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA

3 Mar 1918

Arthur Kornberg was born in Brooklyn NY, USA

20 May 1918

Edward B Lewis was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA

6 Jun 1918

Hans Adolf Krebs was born in Hildesheim, Germany

31 Jul 1918

Paul D Boyer was born in Provo UT, USA

13 Aug 1918

Frederick Sanger, twice Nobel Prize winner, born

8 Oct 1918

Jens C Skou was born in Lemvig, Denmark


First use of the term 'biotechnology'

1 Apr 1919

Joseph E Murray was born in Milford MA, USA

15 Jul 1919

Hermann Emil Fischer died

13 Aug 1919

Reinhold Benesch was born in Poland

28 Aug 1919

Godfrey N Hounsfield was born in Newark, United Kingdom

15 Mar 1920

Edward Donnall Thomas was born in Mart, Texas, USA