Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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Edward Jenner, English physician, inoculated a child with material taken from cowpox pustles to protect him from smallpox. 1797-01-01T00:00:00+0000Hodgkin was a prominent pathologist who in 1932 provided the first description of Hodgkin's disease, a form of cancer that originates from the a specific type of white blood cells in lymphoma. His work opened up the start of the active involvement of pathologists in the clinical diagnosis and management of disease. He also helped to get histology recognised as a discipline. Hodgkin was one of the earliest promoters of preventative medicine. 1798-08-17T00:00:00+0000Coined from the Greek word 'bios', meaning life' and suffix 'logy' meaning 'science of'. The term was introduced independently by Thomas Beddoes in 1799, Karl Friedrich Burdacgh in 1800, and Gottfried Reinhold Treviranus and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck in 1802.1799-01-01T00:00:00+0000Withering was a British 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.1799-10-06T00:00:00+0000Jean-Louis Prevost, a Swiss physician, and Jean-Baptiste Dumas, a French scientist, discovered the presence of spermatozoa in the testes of many different animals. Their work challenged the traditional view at the time that spermatozoa were parasites. Most of the findings were published in the Annales des Sciences Naturelles in the period 1821–30.1800-01-01T00:00:00+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. 1804-04-05T00:00:00+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. 1804-09-18T00:00:00+0000Duchenne, a neurologist, was the first to describe several nervous and muscular disorders and develop medical treatments for them. He provided the first accounts of muscular atrophy and paralysis caused by nerve disorders. This included tabes dorsalis, or locomotor ataxia, a muscular atrophy caused by a degeneration of the dorsal columns of the spinal cord and sensory nerve trunks. He also identified the muscular dystrophy now immortalised with his name. The condition , a severe form of progressive muscle weakness, was first observed by Duchenne in 13 young boys. Duchesne also developed the use of deep tissue biopsy for diagnosis and advanced the science of electro-physiology and electro-therapy. 1806-09-17T00:00:00+00001808-01-01T00:00:00+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.1809-02-12T00:00:00+0000Schwann was a 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.1810-12-07T00:00:00+00001811-01-01T00:00:00+0000Snow was a physician who provided the first conclusive evidence that diseases like cholera and bubonic plague were caused by germs and not by pollution or bad air (miasma). In 1854 he was able to pinpoint the source of an outbreak of cholera in Soho, London, to a particular water pump. The outbreak was brought to an end after the pump's handle was removed. This work prompted major changes in the water and waste systems in London, which were soon followed in other cities, leading to a significant improvement in public health. Snow also made major extensive improvements to anaesthesia and the use of chloroform for use in childbirth. 1813-03-15T00:00:00+0000Remak was a Polish-German embryologist, physiologist and neurologist who is best known for showing that all cells come from the division of pre-existing cells. He first made this discovery while observing red blood cells from chicken embryos in various stages of division. Later on he confirmed the same process happened in the cell of every frog's egg immediately after fertilisation. Remak also discovered unmyelinated nerve fibers and the nerve cells in the heart. Despite his achievements, Remak never gained a full position as professor because of his Jewish background. 1815-07-26T00:00:00+0000Brown-Sequard was a physiologist and neurologist. He is best known for his discovery of the physiology of the spinal cord and the need for the adrenal gland. In addition, he predicted the existence of hormones. He sparked controversy after claiming to have rejuvenated his sexual prowess by injecting himself with extracts of monkey testis. His response to the extracts is now considered to have been placebo but his experiment helped found endocrinology as a discipline.1817-04-08T00:00:00+00001818-01-22T00:00:00+0000Semmelweis was a physician who in 1847 found that hand-washing with chlorinated lime solutions could dramatically reduce the number of women dying in childbirth from puerperal fever. He developed his method based on his observation that puerperal fever killed as many as 3 out 10 women who gave birth in hospital, but was rare among those who had home births. Believing the disease was possibly transmitted by doctors he insisted that all those who worked under him washed their hands in chemicals between patient examinations. Despite his success in reducing maternal mortality, his method was rejected during his life-time. It only became widespread after the rise of germ theory. 1818-07-01T00:00:00+0000Following experiments in animals James Blundell, a British obstetrician performed the first successful transfusion of human blood to treat postpartum haremorrahage in a woman who had just gone through childbirth. Using a syringe, Blundell managed to transfuse four ounces of blood extracted of the woman's husband's arm to treat the patient. Blundell subsequently performed ten more transfusions with human blood in the years 1825-30, half of which were successful. 1818-09-26T00:00:00+0000Blackwell was the first woman to graduate from a medical school in US (Geneva Medical College, New York). In 1857 she set up the New York Dispensary for Indigent Women and Children. A year later she became the first woman registered on UK Medical Register. Blackwell was an ardent promoter of women's education in medicine. In 1874 she helped set up the London School of Medicine for Women which prepared women to take the licensing exam of the Apothecaries Hall. For Blackwell, medicine was a means for social and moral reform. Between 1880 and 1895 she became involved in a number of reform movements, including moral reform, sexual purity, hygiene, Eugenics, medical ethics, and women's rights. 1821-02-03T00:00:00+0000Virchow was a German pathologist who is renowned for the development of cellular pathology. He was the first to promote the idea that disease arises in the individual cells of a tissue and developed the first standard technique for performing autopsies which involved examining the whole body for lesions. In 1845 he published the first pathological description of leukemia. He was also one of the first to notice cancer to originate from otherwise normal cells and that certain cancers were associated with long-term inflammation. Virchow was also the founder of social medicine and a major campaigner for improving sanitary and living conditions to prevent the spread of disease.1821-10-13T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1797First smallpox vaccination Jenner Vaccines, Infectious diseases
17 Aug 1798Thomas Hodgkin bornThomas HodgkinSt Thomas's Hospital, Guy's HospitalPathology, Oncology
1799 - 1802First use of the word 'biology' Beddoes, Burdach, Treviranus, Lamarck  
6 Oct 1799William Withering diedWithering Cardiovascular
1800Sperm shown to be produced in the testisPrevost, Dumas Reproduction
5 Apr 1804Matthias J Schleiden was bornSchleiden University of JenaCell, Genetics
18 Sep 1804Charles Sedillot was born in Paris, FranceSedillot Surgery, Bacteriology
17 Sep 1806Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne was born in Boulogne, FranceDuchenne Neuroscience
1808Caspar Wistar appointed sole professor of anatomy, midwifery and surgery at the University of Pennsylvania Wistar Institute 
12 Feb 1809Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, UKDarwin Evolution
7 Dec 1810Theodor Schwann was born in Neuss, GermanySchwannUniversity of LiegeCell
1811 - 1814Caspar Wistar published his two volumes of 'A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine', the first American anatomy textbook Wistar Institute 
15 Mar 1813John Snow was born in London, United KingdomSnow  
26 Jul 1815Robert Remak was born in Posen, PrussiaRemak Embryology, Cell, Neurology
8 Apr 1817Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard was born in Port Louis, MauritiusBrown-SequardPort Louis, MauritiusEndocrinology
22 Jan 1818Caspar Wistar died Wistar Institute 
1 Jul 1818Ignaz P Semmelweis was born in Budapest, Hungary SemmelweisVienna General HospitalBacteriology
26 Sep 1818First successful transfusion of human blood BlundellGuy's HospitalTransfusion
3 Feb 1821Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, EnglandBlackwell  
13 Oct 1821Rudolf Virchow was born in Schivelbein, Pomerania, Prussia (now Poland)Virchow Pathology, Public health, Oncology


First smallpox vaccination

17 Aug 1798

Thomas Hodgkin born

1799 - 1802

First use of the word 'biology'

6 Oct 1799

William Withering died


Sperm shown to be produced in the testis

5 Apr 1804

Matthias J Schleiden was born

18 Sep 1804

Charles Sedillot was born in Paris, France

17 Sep 1806

Guillaume-Benjamin-Amand Duchenne was born in Boulogne, France


Caspar Wistar appointed sole professor of anatomy, midwifery and surgery at the University of Pennsylvania

12 Feb 1809

Charles Darwin was born in Shrewsbury, UK

7 Dec 1810

Theodor Schwann was born in Neuss, Germany

1811 - 1814

Caspar Wistar published his two volumes of 'A System of Anatomy for the Use of Students of Medicine', the first American anatomy textbook

15 Mar 1813

John Snow was born in London, United Kingdom

26 Jul 1815

Robert Remak was born in Posen, Prussia

8 Apr 1817

Charles-Edouard Brown-Sequard was born in Port Louis, Mauritius

22 Jan 1818

Caspar Wistar died

1 Jul 1818

Ignaz P Semmelweis was born in Budapest, Hungary

26 Sep 1818

First successful transfusion of human blood

3 Feb 1821

Elizabeth Blackwell was born in Bristol, Gloucestershire, England

13 Oct 1821

Rudolf Virchow was born in Schivelbein, Pomerania, Prussia (now Poland)

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