Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Schwann was a German physiologist who defined the cell as the basic unit of animal tissue structure. This was based on his investigation of the structure and function of nerves, muscles and blood vessels. His work in this area was aided by the arrival of new powerful microscopes. Schwann's work laid the foundation for the study of cell biology.1884-01-11T00:00:00+0000Meyerhof was a physician and biochemist who was awarded the 1922 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his discovery of the 'fixed relationship between the consumption of oxygen and the metabolism of lactic acid in the muscle.' In 1938 he was forced to flee Nazi Germany because of his Jewish background which entailed leaving the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Medicine where he was a director from 1929. He was appointed a guest professor at the University of Pennsylvania. 1884-04-12T00:00:00+0000Cohnheim was a renowned German pathologist who was the first to freeze pathological specimens for examination. he also helped to determine the morbid changes that inflammation, tuberculosis and other diseases cause to animal tissue. In addition he developed the classification now used for tumours, for example carcinomas, fibroma, and sarcoma. His theory of the causes of embolism also opened up new methods for medical treatment.1884-08-15T00:00:00+0000Svedberg was a nuclear scientist who in 1923 invented the analytical ultracentrifuge, a high speed centrifuge that makes it possible to spin large molecules at forces in excess of a million times the force of gravity. This provided a means to separate large macromolecules such as proteins out of a solution. Svedberg used his ultracentrifuge to work out the relative molecular masses of large molecules in high polymers and proteins. He managed to determine the molecular weight of haemoglobin in blood and casein in milk. Svedberg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1926 for his invention of the analytical ultracentrifuge. which he used to research colloids and proteins.1884-08-30T00:00:00+0000Albrecht Kossel isolates and describes five organic compounds present in nucleic acids as being adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. 1885-01-01T00:00:00+0000Achieved by Wilhelm Rous, the feat established the priciple of tissue culture. 1885-01-01T00:00:00+0000The outbreak was probably caused by blood contamination of the lymph used in the smallpox vaccination. Of 1129 vaccinated shipworkers, 191 developed jaundice. A. Lurman, 'Eine icterusepidemic', Berl Klin Wehnschr, 22 (1885), 20-23; J. Jehn, 'Eine Ikterusepidemie in wahrscheinlichem. Zusam-menhang mit vorausgegangener Revaccination', Dtsch Med.Wochenschr, 11 (1885), 339.1885-01-01T00:00:00+00001885-01-01T00:00:00+0000Louis Pasteur successfully tested his rabies vaccine on a nine year old boy who had been bitten by a rabid dog.1885-07-06T00:00:00+0000Kendall made several contributions to biochemistry and medicine. He is best known for isolating the steroid cortisone from the adrenal gland cortex, subsequently used to treat rheumatoid arthritis, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1950. He also isolated thyroxine, the main hormone secreted by the thyroid gland which is vital to digestion, heart and muscle function and brain development and bone maintenance. 1886-03-08T00:00:00+0000Robinson was an organic chemist who made significant contributions to the structural analysis, synthesis, and biosynthesis of diverse natural products and to the electronic interpretation of reaction mechanisms. He won the Nobel Prize in 1947 for his research on plant dyestuffs (anthocyanins) and alkaloids. His determination of the arrangement of atoms within morphine, papverine, narcotine and other molecules paved the way for the production of certain antimalarial drugs in the 1930s. 1886-09-13T00:00:00+0000Hill was a physiologist who helped found the disciplines of biophysics and operations research. His investigations into the physiological thermodynamics of muscle and nerve tissue helped to demonstrate that oxygen is necessary for recovery from muscular activity. At one point he used himself as a research subject which involved him running for three and a quarter hours every morning. His work paved the way to the discovery of a series of biochemical reactions carried out in muscle cells that are necessary for contraction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1922 for helping to elucidate the production of heat and mechanical work in muscles. 1886-09-26T00:00:00+0000Goodpasture was a research scientist who developed the first method for culturing uncontaminated viruses in chicken embryos and fertilised chicken eggs. Before this viruses were grown in living tissues which could be contaminated by bacteria. Goodpasture's method laid the foundation for the mass production of vaccines for diseases like smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and chicken pox. He was also a key pioneer in the development of the mumps vaccine. 1886-10-17T00:00:00+0000Rose was a biochemist and nutritionist. He isolated the amino acid threonine in 1932 and demonstrated in rats that a diet that lacked the amino acid stunted their growth. By 1949 he had established that ten amino acids were vital to human health: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine. Based on this work he was appointed to the US Food and Nutrition Board of the National Research Council which drew up dietary recommendations. 1887-04-04T00:00:00+0000Houssay was a physiologist who discovered how the pituitary gland regulates glucose or blood sugar levels. This he determined while studying the pituitary gland in dogs and toads during the early 1940s. In 1947 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for his achievement. He was the first Latin American to receive the Nobel Laureate in the sciences. The award was particularly poignant given that four years before the Argentinian military government had Houssay dismissed from his position at the University of Buenos Aires Medical school where he had built up an internationally respected department in experimental physiology and medicine from 1919. Houssay was later reinstated in 1955 following Juan Peron's fall from power. 1887-04-10T00:00:00+0000Sumner was a biochemist who showed that enzymes are proteins and can be crystalised, for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1946. He crystalised his first enzyme, urease, in 1926. This he achieved by mixing purified urease with acetone and then chilling it. Using chemical tests he showed the enzyme was a protein. His work provided the first proof that enzymes are proteins1887-11-19T00:00:00+00001888-01-01T00:00:00+0000Heidelberger was one of the founders of immunochemistrty, a branch of biochemistry that investigates the mammalian immune system at the molecular level. He first made his mark in 1923 when he found, with Oswald Avery, that that the immune system could target bacterial sugars. The two scientists made the discovery while investigating a capsular substance that envelops pneumococcus and other species of bacteria. Their work helped determine that antibodies were proteins. It also paved the way to improving the production of more effective serum therapies for the prevention of bacterial infectious diseases like pneumonia and meningitis. 1888-04-29T00:00:00+0000Willis was a haemotologist who discovered a nutritional factor in yeast, now known as folic acid, which prevents and cures macocytic anaemia, a life-threatening condition that can develop in pregnancy. The disease is particularly prevalent in poor women in the tropics who have inadequate diets. Willis made her discovery while working in India. Noticing that wealthy women seemed to suffer less from the symptoms of anaemia than poor women, Willis hypothesised that the disease was linked to nutrition. She found that liver supplements and Marmite, a spread high in vitamin B made from brewer's yeast could combat anaemia in rats. This led her to successfully treating anaemia in pregnant Indian women by using liver supplements and Marmite. Her results were published in 1931. 1888-05-10T00:00:00+0000Gasser was a physiologist. He shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering different fibers in nerves that conduct electrochemical pulses at different rates. Together with Josepph Erlanger he studied the barely detectable electrical impulses carried by mammalian nerve fibres. By 1924 they had managed to visualise amplified nerve impulses on a fluorescent screen. Their work demonstrated that one type of fiber conducts pain signals and others conduct motor control signals. Gasser was the director of the Rockefeller Institute from 1936 to 1953. 1888-07-05T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
11 Jan 1884Theodor Schwann diedSchwannUniversity of LiegeCell
12 Apr 1884Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, GermanyMeyerhofKiel University, University of PennsylvaniaMetabolism
15 Aug 1884Julius F Cohnheim diedCohnheimUniversity of Kiel, University of Breslau, University of LeipzigPathology, Oncology
30 Aug 1884Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, SwedenSvedbergUppsala UniversityBiochemistry
1885 - 1901Nucleic acids structure determinedKosselInstitute of Physiology, University of Berlin, University of MarburgDNA
1885Chick embryos maintained in saline culture for several daysWilhelm Rous Cell Culture
1885Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymphLurman  
1885Louis Pasteur put forward concept of germ-free animalPasteur Microbiome
1885First rabies vaccine testedPasteurPasteur InstituteBacteriology, Vaccines
8 Mar 1886Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USAKendallMayo ClinicBiochemistry, Endocrinology
13 Sep 1886Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United KingdomRobinsonOxford UniversityAntibacterial agents
26 Sep 1886Archibald Vivian Hill was born in Bristol, UKHillCambridge University, University of Manchester, University College LondonPhysiology
17 Oct 1886Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USAGoodpastureHarvard UniversityVirology, Vaccines
4 Apr 1887William C Rose was born Greenville, South Carolina, USARoseUniversity of IllinoisNutrition, Biochemistry
10 Apr 1887Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, ArgentinaHoussayUniversity of Buenos AiresMetabolism
19 Nov 1887James B Sumner was born in Canton MA, USASumnerCornell UniversityBiochemistry
1888Term 'chromosome' coined by Edouard van Beneden, denoting 'coloured bodies'Beneden  
29 Apr 1888Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USAHeidelbergerRockefeller Institute, Columbia UniversityAntibodies, Immunology
10 May 1888Lucy Willis was born in Sutton Coldfield, United KingdomWillisRoyal Free Hospital, Haffkine Institute Nutrition, Haematology
5 Jul 1888Herbert Spencer Gasser was born in Platteville WI, USAGasserRockefeller InstituteNeuroscience

11 Jan 1884

Theodor Schwann died

12 Apr 1884

Otto F Meyerhof was born in Hanover, Germany

15 Aug 1884

Julius F Cohnheim died

30 Aug 1884

Theodor H E Svedberg was born in Flerang, Sweden

1885 - 1901

Nucleic acids structure determined


Chick embryos maintained in saline culture for several days


Jaundice outbreaks recorded among German shipworkers and inmates in an asylum several months after receiving smallpox vaccination containing human lymph


Louis Pasteur put forward concept of germ-free animal


First rabies vaccine tested

8 Mar 1886

Edward Calvin Kendall was born in South Norwalk CT, USA

13 Sep 1886

Robert Robinson was born Rufford, near Chesterfield, United Kingdom

26 Sep 1886

Archibald Vivian Hill was born in Bristol, UK

17 Oct 1886

Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USA

4 Apr 1887

William C Rose was born Greenville, South Carolina, USA

10 Apr 1887

Bernardo Alberto Houssay was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina

19 Nov 1887

James B Sumner was born in Canton MA, USA


Term 'chromosome' coined by Edouard van Beneden, denoting 'coloured bodies'

29 Apr 1888

Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USA

10 May 1888

Lucy Willis was born in Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom

5 Jul 1888

Herbert Spencer Gasser was born in Platteville WI, USA

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