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.

Herrick was a physician and cardiologist who reported the first case of sickle-shaped red blood cells in 1910. These he found in the blood of a medical student from Grenada suffering from anaemia. Clinicians subsequently found that the condition, called sickle-cell anaemia, was inherited and was most common in black patients. Sickle-cell anemia was the first disease found to have a genetic cause. Herrick later also observed the first clinical features of coronary thrombosis. 1861-08-11T00:00:00+0000Bragg shared the 1915 Nobel Prize in Physics with his son, William Lawrence Bragg, for the development of X-ray crystallography. Using his experience of ionisation measurements William H. Bragg managed to construct an X-ray spectometer to investigate the properties of X-rays. He maintained an active interest in X-ray crystallography until his death. Sciences: 1862-07-02T00:00:00+0000Oscar Hertwig, Albrecht von Kolliker, Eduard Strasburger, and August Weismann independently show the cell's nucleus contains the basis for inheritance.1864-01-01T00:00:00+0000Ivanovsky was a microbiologist who was one the first scientists to discover viruses.1864-11-09T00:00:00+0000Conducting experiments breeding peas, Gregor Mendel, Austrian scientist, demonstrates that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns. This lays the foundation for what was to become known as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. Athough Mendel's theory was not recognised until the early 20th century, Mendel's work established the general principles for modern genetics. 1865-01-01T00:00:00+0000Harden shared the 1929 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for investigations into the process of fermentation and the actions of enzymes during fermentation1865-10-12T00:00:00+0000Ernst Haeckel, German biologist and philosopher, proposes the cell nucleus contains factors responsible for the transmission of hereditary traits.1866-01-01T00:00:00+0000A French bacteriologist, Nicolle determined that lice were the transmission vector of epidemic typhus and worked out the transmission method of tick fever. His work also helped discover the parasite responsible for toxoplasmosis. In addition, he developed a vaccine for Malta fever, a disease now called brucellosis.1866-09-21T00:00:00+0000An American geneticist, Morgan discovered the role chromosomes play in heredity based on investigations into Drosophilia, the fruit fly.1866-09-25T00:00:00+0000Fibiger published the first randomisation method for a clinical trial. The aim of the trial, conducted in 1898, was to investigate the effect of serum therapy on diphtheria. Fibiger would later go on to win the 1926 Nobel Prize for Medicine for demonstrating a roundworm could cause stomach cancer in rats and mice. Following his death researchers showed that the roundworm could not cause cancer and were due to vitamin deficiency and that Fibiger had mistakenly confused non-cancerous tumours for cancerous tumours in his experiments. 1867-04-23T00:00:00+0000Curie won two Nobel Prizes, one in 1903 and another in 1911 for pioneering the study of radioactivity.1867-11-07T00:00:00+0000Landsteiner won the 1930 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of blood types. He also helped identify the Rh factor and the poliovirus. 1868-06-14T00:00:00+0000Freidrich Miescher, Swiss physician and biologist, performing experiments on the chemical composition of white blood cells (leucocytes) isolates phosphate-rich chemicals from the nuclei of cells. Originally calling this substance nuclein, Miescher's discovery paved the way for the identification of what we today call nucleic acids and the understanding of DNA as the carrier of inheritance. 1869-01-01T00:00:00+0000A Russian-American biochemist, Levene discovered nucleic acids came in two forms: DNA and RNA. He also idenfitied the components of DNA: adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine, deoxyribose and a phosphate group and showed that these components were linked together by nucleotides, phosphate-sugar base units. 1869-02-25T00:00:00+0000Spemann won the 1935 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering embryonic induction, the process that directs parts of an embryo to develop groups of cells into particular tissues and organs.1869-06-27T00:00:00+0000McClung was a zoologist. He is best known for identifying the role of chromosomes in determining the sex of a species. This he did through a series of experiments with insects between 1901 and 1902. Based on his findings he hypothesised that the accessory chromosome (now known as chromosome X) could be the nuclear element that determined sex. It was the first time a scientist suggested that a given chromosome carried a set of hereditary traits. 1870-04-05T00:00:00+0000Bordet was a Belgian physician, immunologist and microbiologist. He is best known for winning the 1919 Nobel Prize for his discovery of two components in the blood - antibodies and complement proteins - that help destroy invading bacteria. They do this by rupturing the cell walls of the bacteria, a process known as bacteriolysis. Bordet made the discovery in 1895. He subsequently found, in 1898, that red blood cells from one animal species injected into another get destroyed by haemolysis - a process analogous to bacteriolysis. His research laid the foundation for the development of diagnostic tests that looked for antibodies in the blood to detect infectious agents. The first one was for typhoid, developed in 1896.1870-06-13T00:00:00+0000Schaudinn was a zoologist who helped discover the bacterial cause of syphilis. He also identified the amoeba that causes dysentry and confirmed hook worm infections are contracted through skin on the feet. 1871-09-19T00:00:00+00001872-01-01T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages (phages), viruses that infect bacteria that are now major tools in biotechnology. He isolated the first phage from chicken faeces in 1919. Following this he successfully treated chicken affected by a plague of typhus with the phage and in August 1919 cured a patient with dysentery using the same method. This laid the basis for the development of phage therapy. 1873-04-25T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
11 Aug 1861James Bryan Herrick was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USAHerrick Rush Medical CollegeGenetics
2 Jul 1862William Henry Bragg was born in Wigton, United KingdomBraggLeeds University, University College LondonX ray crystallography
1864 - 1865Nucleus shown to contain genetic substanceHertwig, von Kolliker, Strasburger, Weismann University of Munich, University of Wurzburg, University of FreiburgGenetics, DNA
9 Nov 1864Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was bornIvanovskyUniversity of St PetersburgVirology
1865Laws of inheritance establishedMendelAbbey of St Thomas, Brno, Austro-Hungarian EmpireGenetics
12 Oct 1865Arthur Harden was born in Manchester, United KingdomHardenManchester, United KingdomBiochemistry
1866Theory that cell's nucleus contains genetic substanceHaeckelUniversity of JenaCell, Genetics
21 Sep 1866Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, FranceNicolle Vaccine
25 Sep 1866Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in Lexington KY, USAMorganCalifornia Institute of Technology 
23 Apr 1867Johannes A G Fibiger was born in Silkeborg, DenmarkFibigerSilkeborg, DenmarkAntibodies, Oncology, Clinical trial
7 Nov 1867Marie Curie, nee Sklodowska, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, was born in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)CurieWarsaw 
14 Jun 1868Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, AustriaLandsteinerVienna, AustriaImmunology
1869Discovery of DNAMiescher University of TubingenDNA
25 Feb 1869Phoebus Levene was bornLevene DNA
27 Jun 1869Hans Spemann born in Stuttgart, Württemberg (now Germany)Spemann Embryology
5 Apr 1870Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USAMcClungUniversity of PennsylvaniaGenetics
13 Jun 1870Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, BelgiumBordetPasteur InstituteAntibodies, Immunology, Diagnostics
19 Sep 1871Fritz R Schaudinn was bornSchaudinnCharite – Universitatsmedizin BerlinBacteriology
1872Walther Flemming, German biologist, describes chromosomes and examines their behaviour during cell division. FlemmingUniversity of KielDNA
25 Apr 1873Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canadad'HerellePasteur InstituteAntibacterial agents, Bacteriophages, Bacteriology, Virology

11 Aug 1861

James Bryan Herrick was born in Oak Park, Illinois, USA

2 Jul 1862

William Henry Bragg was born in Wigton, United Kingdom

1864 - 1865

Nucleus shown to contain genetic substance

9 Nov 1864

Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was born


Laws of inheritance established

12 Oct 1865

Arthur Harden was born in Manchester, United Kingdom


Theory that cell's nucleus contains genetic substance

21 Sep 1866

Charles J H Nicolle was born in Rouen, France

25 Sep 1866

Thomas Hunt Morgan was born in Lexington KY, USA

23 Apr 1867

Johannes A G Fibiger was born in Silkeborg, Denmark

7 Nov 1867

Marie Curie, nee Sklodowska, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911, was born in Warsaw, Russian Empire (now Poland)

14 Jun 1868

Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, Austria


Discovery of DNA

25 Feb 1869

Phoebus Levene was born

27 Jun 1869

Hans Spemann born in Stuttgart, Württemberg (now Germany)

5 Apr 1870

Clarence E McClung was born in Clayton, California, USA

13 Jun 1870

Jules Bordet was born in Soignies, Belgium

19 Sep 1871

Fritz R Schaudinn was born


Walther Flemming, German biologist, describes chromosomes and examines their behaviour during cell division.

25 Apr 1873

Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canada