Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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A physician and bacteriologist, Zinsser isolated the bacterium that causes typhus and developed a protective vaccine against it. In 1935 he published the book 'Rats, Live and History' in which he recounted the effects of typhus on mankind and the efforts to eradicate it. In the book he argued that disease was responsible for more deaths than war. 1878-11-17T00:00:00+0000Louis Pasteur develops an attenuated chicken cholera vaccine1879-01-01T00:00:00+0000The observation was made during investigations into sea urchin fertilisation by both Oscar Hertwig and Hermann Fol working independently of each other. 1879-01-01T00:00:00+0000Sanger popularised the term 'birth control' and opened the first contraceptive clinic in the United States. She was also the first to envisage a contraceptive that women could take in a pill form and was behind the development of the first oral contraceptive. Sanger first became involved in campaigning for birth control after working as a nurse on the Lower East Side in New York which brought her into close contact with poverty-stricken mothers dying in childbirth due to uncontrolled fertility and unsafe abortions. 1879-09-14T00:00:00+0000A pathologist, Rous won the 1966 Nobel Prize for showing how viruses could cause cancer. He demonstrated this in 1910 by transplanting some material from a cancer tumour taken from a sick chicken into a healthy chicken. The healthy chicken developed cancer. Other scientists struggled to replicate his experiment in mammals so his discovery was initially dismissed. 1879-10-05T00:00:00+0000Marine was a pathologist whose discovery in the 1920 that iodine deficiency leads to the swelling of the thyroid gland (goitre) led to the standard practice of adding iodine to table salt to prevent the disease. He established the importance of iodine by studying a large group of school girls in Ohio between 1917 and 1922. The work involved monitoring 4,000 students, half of which were given iodine and the other half were not. It was one of the earliest large-scale experiments to be attempted on humans. 1880-09-20T00:00:00+0000A trained botanist and geologist, Stopes was the first female academic to get a position at the University of Manchester where she conducted research on plant palaeontology and coal classification. She is best known for her campaigning work to make birth control available to women. In 1921 she helped to open the first clinic in London that offered birth control advice and dispensed contraception to poor mothers.1880-10-15T00:00:00+0000Hess was a physiologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1949 for identifying parts of the brain that control internal organs. He used brain stimulation techniques using electrodes to map regions of the brain associated with specific physiological responses. This he did using cats in the 1930s. He also found it possible to induce excitement and apathy by stimulating different parts of the hypothalamus1881-03-17T00:00:00+0000Schleiden was a botanist. Based on his study of plant structures under the microscope he helped develop the theory that cells are the basic structure in all organisms and the basic unit of reproduction. He also connected the cell nucleus with cell division and suggested that all embryonic plant cells arose from one cell. 1881-06-23T00:00:00+0000Dick was a physician and bacteriologist who made his name studying scarlet fever. In 1923 he and his wife, Gladys Rowena Dick, worked out that the disease was caused by a toxin released by a strain of Streptococcus bacteria. This enabled them to create an antitoxin for treatment and vaccine for prevention. He also developed a skin test to determine a person's susceptibility to the disease. 1881-07-21T00:00:00+0000Fleming was a biologist and microbiologist. He first made his mark through his discovery of lysosyme in 1923. This is an enzyme produced in the tears, saliva, mucus and human milk which is an important part of the immune system. Today he is best known for having found penicillin, a mould subsequently developed as the first antibiotic drug to treat bacterial diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945 for this discovery.1881-08-06T00:00:00+0000Dick originally trained as a zoologist and then completed a medical degree. She made her name studying scarlet fever after she herself caught the disease. In 1923 she and her husband George Dick, worked out that the disease was caused by a toxin released by a strain of Streptococcus bacteria. This enabled them to create an antitoxin for treatment and vaccine for prevention. She also devised a technique to prevent cross infection of scarlet fever among infants. Known as the Dick Aseptic Nursery Technique this promoted strict sterilisation and aseptic procedures. 1881-12-18T00:00:00+0000The stem cell is conceived as a distinctive cell which serves as the starting point for blood formation.1882-01-01T00:00:00+0000Darwin was an English naturalist best known for developing the theory that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry. His book 'On the Origin of Species', published in 1859, outlined his evidence for his theory of evolution. While initially rejected, his explanation of natural selection as the basic mechanism for evolution achieved broad consensus by 1930s and was accepted as a unifying theory for the diversity of life. 1882-04-19T00:00:00+0000Galton publishes the term in his book 'Inquiries into Human Faculty and Its Development'. 1883-01-01T00:00:00+0000Sedillot was a French military physician and surgeon who was a major pioneer of endoscopic surgery, anaesthesiology, clinical histopathology and infectiology . In 1846 he performed the first gastromy in the world. This is a surgical procedure the makes an opening between the stomach and the abdominal wall to enable the absorption of food through a tube. He was also one of the first to make the link between the proximity of the dissection room and the operating theatre in the development of postoperative infectious complications. Sedillot is also credited with coining the term 'microbe' (from the Greek: mikros, 'small', and bios, life') in 1878.1883-01-19T00:00:00+0000Colebrook was a physician and bacteriologist who is in 1935 demonstrated that Prontosil, one of the first antibacterial drugs, was an effective treatment for puerperal sepsis caused by streptococcal bacteria, an infection that killed many women in childbirth. His work in the area dramatically reduced the number of women dying in childbirth and marked a major turning point in antimicrobial chemotherapy. He also made breakthroughs in burn care by using antisepsis treatment for burn wound infections and pushing for the establishment of burn units in hospitals.1883-03-02T00:00:00+0000Just was an African-American biologist and embryologist whose pioneering work on marine mammal cell fertilisation advanced the understanding of cell division, asexual reproduction, hydration and dehydration in living cells. This work helped to demonstrate the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. His work also showed the effect of ultra violet rays on egg cells. Unable to gain an appointment at an American university of account of racial discrimination, Just moved firstly to Italy and then to Germany and France to continue his research. 1883-08-14T00:00:00+0000Warburg was a physician and physiologist who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1931 for his discoveries relating to cellular respiration. This was based on some experiments he launched in the early 1920s to understand the process by which oxygen is consumed in the ells of living organisms. This led to his identification of the role of cytochromes, a group of haemoprotein cell components that with the aid of enzymes enable the transfer of energy within cells. Warburg was forbidden by the Nazi regime from receiving a second Nobel Prize in 1944 for uncovering nicotinamide, the mechanism and enzymes involved in fermentation, and his discovery of flavin (in yellow enzymes).1883-10-08T00:00:00+0000Mendel is today considered the father of modern genetics. An Augustinian monk, Mendel helped establish the basic laws of genetic inheritance by studying the traits between different pea plant generations. Mendel conducted this research between 1853 and 1863. Based on experiments with tens of thousands of different plants, Mendel established that peas followed certain patterns in terms of the traits they inherited. He published his results in 1866, but he did little to promote his work. The importance of his work was only grasped many decades later after his death. 1884-01-06T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
17 Nov 1878Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USAZinsserColumbia University, Stanford University, Harvard UniversityBacteriology, Vaccines
1879Chicken cholera vaccine developedPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology, Vaccines
1879Sperm entry into the egg observedHertwig, Fol Reproduction
14 Sep 1879Margaret Sanger was born inCorning, New York, USA Margaret Sanger Reproduction
5 Oct 1879Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USARousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
20 Sep 1880David Marine was born in Whitleysburg, Maryland, USAMarineWestern Reserve UniversityEndocrinology
15 Oct 1880Marie Stopes was born in Edinburgh, ScotlandStopesManchester UniversityReproduction
17 Mar 1881Walter R Hess was born in Frauenfeld, SwitzerlandHessUniversity of ZurichNeuroscience
23 Jun 1881Matthias J Schleiden diedSchleiden University of JenaCell
21 Jul 1881George Frederick Dick was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USAGeorge DickRush Medical CollegeVaccine
6 Aug 1881Alexander Fleming was bornFlemingLondon UniversityBacteriology, Biochemistry, Antibacterial agents
18 Dec 1881Gladys Rowena H Dick was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, USAGladys Dick University of Chicago, John R. McCormick Institute for Infectious Diseases, St Luke's HospitalVaccine
1882Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first timeHaeckel, Dantchakoff, Pappenheim, Ehrlich, MaximowUniversity of Jena, Charite Hospital, Koch Institute, Petrograd University Stem cells
19 Apr 1882Charles Darwin diedDarwin Evolution
1883The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious matingGalton Genetics
19 Jan 1883Charles Sedillot diedSedillot Surgery, Bacteriology
2 Mar 1883Leonard Colebrook was born in Guildford, United KingdomLeonard ColebrookSt Mary's Hospital, Charlotte's HospitalBacteriology, Antibacterial agents
14 Aug 1883Ernest E Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina, USA JustHoward University, Kaiser Wilhelm InstituteEmbryology, Reproduction
8 Oct 1883Otto H Warburg born in Freiburg im Breisgau, GermanyWarburgKaiser Wilhelm InstituteCell, Respiration, Enzymes
6 Jan 1884Gregor Johann Mendel diedMendel Genetics

17 Nov 1878

Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USA


Chicken cholera vaccine developed


Sperm entry into the egg observed

14 Sep 1879

Margaret Sanger was born inCorning, New York, USA

5 Oct 1879

Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USA

20 Sep 1880

David Marine was born in Whitleysburg, Maryland, USA

15 Oct 1880

Marie Stopes was born in Edinburgh, Scotland

17 Mar 1881

Walter R Hess was born in Frauenfeld, Switzerland

23 Jun 1881

Matthias J Schleiden died

21 Jul 1881

George Frederick Dick was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA

6 Aug 1881

Alexander Fleming was born

18 Dec 1881

Gladys Rowena H Dick was born in Pawnee City, Nebraska, USA


Concept of the stem cell is put forward for the first time

19 Apr 1882

Charles Darwin died


The term 'Eugenics' is coined by Francis Galton to denote the science of improving stock by judicious mating

19 Jan 1883

Charles Sedillot died

2 Mar 1883

Leonard Colebrook was born in Guildford, United Kingdom

14 Aug 1883

Ernest E Just was born in Charleston, South Carolina, USA

14 Aug 1883

Otto H Warburg born in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany

6 Jan 1884

Gregor Johann Mendel died

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