Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, a Dutch microbiologist, discovered a microscopic parasite called Giardia lamblia, when examining his own stools during times of diarrohea. The parasite can cause an infection in the small intestine.1681-01-01T00:00:00+0000A van Leeuwenhoek, ‘An abstract of a Letter from Antonie van Leeuwenhoek’ Sep. 12, 1683; ‘About Animals in the scrurf of the Teeth’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 14 (1684), 568–74.1683-01-01T00:00:00+0000Hooke was an English natural philosopher. In 1665 he coined the word 'cell' to describe a basic unit of life in his book, Microphia, describing his observations with microscopes and telescopes and biological experiments. This emerged out of his studies of a thin cutting of cork which he noted to have empty spaces contained by walls, and plants in which he said the cells resembled that of a honeycomb. He calculated that the number of cells in a cubic inch was 1,259,712,000. While Hooke did not grasp the full meaning of his discovery, his work laid the foundation for the cell theory.1703-03-03T00:00:00+0000Known as the father of modern physiology, von Haller was a physician who discovered the autonomous nature of the heart and the mechanism of respiration. He also discovered that bile helps digest fats and made many contributions to understanding the distinction between nerve impulses and muscle contractions. During his time he put forward different theories about the nature of embryological development, one of which proposed that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception. He also put forward an accurate model of fetal growth during gestation, showing that the growth was faster at the beginning than later on. 1708-10-16T00:00:00+0000Leeuwenhoek was a Dutch businessman and scientist who is best known for his pioneering work in microscopy. Using microscopes he crafted himself he made the first observations of microorganisms, which he originally called animalcules based on the Latin word 'animalculum' which means tiny animal. He was the first to describe muscle fibres, bacteria, spermatozoa and blood flow in capillaries.1723-08-26T00:00:00+0000Fuller was an English physician who practised in Sevenoaks, Kent. Long before the discovery of microbes, Fuller recognised that diseases like measles and smallpox were caused by the 'venom' of a particular organism. He was also one of the first to recognise the specificness of an infection and immunity. Fuller collected and published the best medicines in his Pharmacopoiea, which appeared in at least 12 editions. He was also an early advocate of smallpox inoculation. 1734-09-17T00:00:00+0000Withering was a physician who made the first systematic investigations of digitalis. He is said to have started studying it after noticing that a person with dropsy (swelling from congestive heart failure) improved after taking a traditional herbal remedy that included an ingredient from the foxglove plant. Following this he made careful assessments of extracts from foxglove leaves to establish what dose was safe to administer to patients. He published his findings in 1785. This paved the pay to use of digitalis as a treatment for steadying and strengthening heart action. 1741-03-17T00:00:00+0000Lamarck was a French biologist who proposed that physical traits were inherited through generations by two forces. The first force was alchemical and the second was environmental. He first outlined his theory of evolution in a lecture in 1802. While discredited for many years, Lamark's theory that organisms can acquire physical traits from their environment and pass these on to their offspring has resurfaced with the rise of epigenetics, a science that seeks to understand how chemical modifications to genes and proteins made in one generation are passed on to the next one.1744-10-01T00:00:00+0000Jenner was an English physician who helped pioneer the smallpox vaccine based on his hypothesis that the pus in blisters milkmaids received from cowpox protected them from smallpox. To test out his theory in 1796 he inoculated the 8 year old son of his gardener with pus taken from the cowpox blisters of a local milkmaid. While the boy suffered a fever he showed no sign of infection with smallpox. Jenner then injected the child with smallpox material, a common method of immunisation at the time, known as variolation. Again he showed no sign of infection. Following this, Jenner tested the same technique in 23 further people. Based on his success, in 1840 the British government outlawed variolation and provided Jenner's method for free to prevent smallpox. Jenner's work laid the foundation for immunisation as a method for preventing disease and for contemporary discoveries in immunology. 1749-05-17T00:00:00+0000Capsar's parents were Richard Wistar and Sarah Wyatt. He was the grandson of Caspar Wistar, a German immigrant, Quaker and glassmaker.1761-09-13T00:00:00+0000Lazzaro Spallanzani challenged the theory by demonstrating that micro-organisms did not appear in meat broth sealed inside tightly closed jars that had been boiled for half an hour.1768-01-01T00:00:00+0000The Scottish surgeon and scientist John Hunter advised a cloth merchant with severe hypospadias to collect semen that escaped during coitus in a warmed syringe and the to inject that sample into the vagina. Hunter wrote up the case in 1790.1770-01-01T00:00:00+0000Lazarro Spallanzi found that it was possible to prevent fertilisation of frogs' eggs during the frog mating season by covering the hindquarters of male frogs with watertight waxed taffeta breeches. Following this he demonstrated that it was possible to transform virgin eggs removed from the bellies of female frogs into tadpoles by exposing them to sperm collected from the male sperm when they pseudo-coupled with the females. 1770-01-01T00:00:00+0000Known as the father of modern physiology, von Haller was a Swiss physician who discovered the autonomous nature of the heart and the mechanism of respiration. He also discovered that bile helps digest fats and made many contributions to understanding the distinction between nerve impulses and muscle contractions. During his time he put forward different theories about the nature of embryological development, one of which proposed that the new individual exists within the maternal egg prior to conception. He also put forward an accurate model of fetal growth during gestation, showing that the growth was faster at the beginning than later on. 1777-12-12T00:00:00+0000Lazzaro Spallanzini found that it was possible to remove the fertilising capacity of semen by passing seminal liquid from male frogs through a filter paper and that the material that remained on the filter paper could cause fertilisation. 1779-01-01T00:00:00+0000Caspar had developed an interest in medicine after attending to the wounded in the aftermath of the battle of Germantown. 1783-01-01T00:00:00+0000Brodie was a physiologist and surgeon who made his name investigating the beginnings of disease in different tissues that form a joint. His work paved the way to more conservative treatments in diseases of the joints, which helped to reduce the number of amputations and saved many limbs and lives. He was the first surgeon to become the president of the British General Medical council and to be elected president to the Royal Society.1783-06-09T00:00:00+0000Serturner was the first person to isolate an active ingredient associated with a medicinal plant or herb. In 1804 he isolated the portion of opium that causes sleep while working as a pharmacy apprentice. He called the compound 'morphium' after Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams. While it took time for the medicinal properties of morphine to be recognised it is now one of the most important natural compounds for the treating pain and is also used for its calming effects. The discovery of morphine established alkaloid chemistry as a branch of science.1783-06-19T00:00:00+0000Magendie is considered a major founder of experimental physiology. He was one of the first to demonstrate the difference between sensory and motor nerves in the spinal cord. His investigations of the effects of drugs on different parts of the body led to the introduction of strychnine and morphine into medical practice. Magendie was also one of the first to observe anaphylaxis, a severe and potentially systemic allergic reaction, which he noticed after doing a second injection of a foreign protein into a rabbit. 1783-10-06T00:00:00+0000The work was carried by Lazzaro Spallanzani, an Italian catholic priest, biologist and physiologist. He managed to perform the technique in a spaniel dog.1785-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1681Discovery of microbes in stoolsVan LeeuwenhoekFMT, Microscopy
1683 - 1684Antonie van Leewenhoek, a Dutch merchant, observed striking differences between microbes in oral and fecal samples taken from himself and collected from sick and healthy individuals van Leeuwenhoek Microbiome
3 Mar 1703Robert Hooke diedHooke Cell
16 Oct 1708Albrecht von Haller was born in Bern, Switzerlandvon HallerUniversity of GottingenAnatomy, Embryology, Reproduction, Physiology
26 Aug 1723Antonie van Leeuwenhoek diedLeeuwenhoek Microscopy
17 Sep 1734Thomas Fuller diedFuller Immunology, Vaccine
17 Mar 1741William Withering born in Wellington, Shropshire, United KingdomWithering Cardiovascular
1 Oct 1744Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was born in Bazentin, Picardy, FranceLamarckFrench Academy of SciencesGenetics
17 May 1749Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, UKJenner Immunology, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
13 Sep 1761Caspar Wistar was born in Philadelphia Wistar Institute 
1768Theory of spontaneous generation shown to be incorrectSpallanzaniUniversity of PaduaReproduction
1770First report of artificial insemination in a humanHunterSt George's HospitalReproduction, IVF
1770Fertilising function of sperm revealedSpallanzaniUniversity of PaduaReproduction
12 Dec 1777Albrecht von Haller diedvon HallerUniversity of GottingenAnatomy, Embryology, Reproduction, Physiology
1779Filtering process found to remove the fertility of frog spermSpallanzaniUniversity of PaduaReproduction
1783Caspar Wistar received his Batchelor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania Wistar Institute 
9 Jun 1783Benjamin Collins Brodie born in Winterslow, Wiltshire, UKBrodieSt George's HospitalSurgery
19 Jun 1783Friedrich Serturner was born in Neuhaus, GermanySerturner Chemistry
6 Oct 1783Francois Magendie was born in Bordeaux, FranceMagendieCollege of FrancePhysiology, Neuroscience
1785First successful artificial insemination in animalsSpallanzaniUniversity of PaviaReproduction, IVF

1681

Discovery of microbes in stools

1683 - 1684

Antonie van Leewenhoek, a Dutch merchant, observed striking differences between microbes in oral and fecal samples taken from himself and collected from sick and healthy individuals

3 Mar 1703

Robert Hooke died

16 Oct 1708

Albrecht von Haller was born in Bern, Switzerland

26 Aug 1723

Antonie van Leeuwenhoek died

17 Sep 1734

Thomas Fuller died

17 Mar 1741

William Withering born in Wellington, Shropshire, United Kingdom

1 Oct 1744

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck was born in Bazentin, Picardy, France

17 May 1749

Edward Jenner was born in Berkeley, UK

13 Sep 1761

Caspar Wistar was born in Philadelphia

1768

Theory of spontaneous generation shown to be incorrect

1770

First report of artificial insemination in a human

1770

Fertilising function of sperm revealed

12 Dec 1777

Albrecht von Haller died

1779

Filtering process found to remove the fertility of frog sperm

1783

Caspar Wistar received his Batchelor of Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania

9 Jun 1783

Benjamin Collins Brodie born in Winterslow, Wiltshire, UK

19 Jun 1783

Friedrich Serturner was born in Neuhaus, Germany

6 Oct 1783

Francois Magendie was born in Bordeaux, France

1785

First successful artificial insemination in animals

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