Timeline of key events in biotechnology

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The term was used by Karl Ernst Baer, a Baltic German anatomist and zoologist. Before this time sperm were known as 'animalcules. 1827-01-01T00:00:00+0000Villemin was a physician who demonstrated that tuberculosis is an infectious disease. He did this by inoculating a rabbit with tuberculosis material taken from a dead patient. The rabbit developed tuberculosis lesions three months later. Villemin also found that rabbits developed the disease when inoculated with tuberculosis material taken from cows. Initially his contemporaries dismissed his findings, presented in 1867, because it challenged the assumption that tuberculosis was a hereditary disease. Villemin subsequently showed that injections of sputum and blood from tubercular patients could transmit the disease to animals. 1827-01-28T00:00:00+0000Lister pioneered the practice of cleanliness in surgery by introducing the routine use of carbolic acid on surgical instruments and wounds. He developed these methods at Glasgow Royal Infirmary after being inspired by the work of Louis Pasteur. Lister's ideas about the transmission of infection and the use of antiseptics were initially mocked by his peers and it took time for the surgeons to accept them. The adoption of Lister's techniques dramatically reduced the incidence of post-operative infections and improved the safety of surgery. 1827-04-05T00:00:00+0000Hutchinson was a physician and pathologist who is renowned for his life-long study of congenital syphilis. He provided the first definitive description of the medical signs for the disease: notched incisor teeth, labyrinthine deafness, and interstitial keratitis. This provided a useful means for diagnosing the disease before the discovery of Treponema pallidum bacteria and development of the Wassermann test. Hutchinson was also the first to identify an inflammatory disease, then called 'Hutchinson's disease', but now known as sarcoidosis. 1828-07-23T00:00:00+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. 1829-12-18T00:00:00+0000The enzyme, diastase, was discovered by the French chemist Anselme Payen. It was published in A Payen, JF Persoz, 'Mémoire sur la diastase, les principaux produits de ses réactions et leurs applications aux arts industriels, 53 (1833), 73-92. 1833-01-01T00:00:00+0000Finlay was an epidemiologist who is renowned for his pioneering research on yellow fever. He was the first to theorise that the mosquito carries the organism that causes yellow fever. Finlay first proposed this idea in 1881 to the International Sanitary Conference. A year later he identified the specific mosquito species, Culex fasciatus (now known as Aedes aegypti), that carries the disease. Despite his discovery, Findlay's work went largely unheeded until 1900 when the US Army Yellow Fever Board confirmed his findings. This paved the way to measures to control the mosquito population to prevent the spread of yellow fever. 1833-12-03T00:00:00+0000Klebs was a physician and bacteriologist who in 1883 discovered the bacillus that causes diphtheria (Corynebacterium diphtheriae). Renowned for his work on infectious diseases, Klebs' research laid the foundation for modern bacteriology. He was the first to successfully inoculate syphilis in monkeys, in 1878, and to isolate colonies of bacteria. In addition he was the first to show it was possible to cause tuberculosis in animals by injecting milk from infected cows and the first to identify the typhoid bacillus (now called Salmonella typhi). 1834-02-06T00:00:00+0000Jackson is considered one of the founders of modern neurology. He was one of the first to determine structural brain damage can cause abnormal mental states. Jackson showed that epileptic convulsions were linked to lesions of the motor region of the cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain. Much of the conceptual framework for clinical neurophysiology today is based on a systematic analytical methods for anatomy, pathology and physiology that Jackson developed. 1835-04-04T00:00:00+0000Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify as a woman in Britain (1865) and the first woman to receive a medical degree in France (1870). Unable to take up a medical post in any hospital in Britain, Garrett Anderson opened her own practice and in 1866 opened the St Mary's Dispensary for Women and Children. She subsequently co-founded the London School of Medicine for Women (later called the Royal Free Hospital of Medicine). It was the first hospital to be staffed by women and to train women doctors. Garrett Anderson was dean of the hospital's medical school from 1883-1903. .1836-06-19T00:00:00+0000Allbutt was an English physician who is renowned for inventing the short clinical thermometer. He introduced the instrument in 1866. It was a marked improvement on the previous foot-long thermometer which took 20 minutes to register a patient's temperature. In 1871 he introduced the use of the ophthalmoscope to inspect the interior of the eye. A few years later, in 1894, Allbutt determined that the painful heart condition angina pectoris stems from the aorta. 1836-07-20T00:00:00+0000Kuhne was a physiologist who coined the term 'enzyme' after his discovery of the protein-digesting enzyme trypsin in 1876. Early on in his career Kuhne worked on the physiology of muscle. In later years he turned to looking at the chemistry of digestion. Kuhne is also known for having helped to elucidate the chemical changes that occur in the retina under the influence of light. 1837-03-28T00:00:00+0000The Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius first proposed term to describe a single substance that was a component of living matter.1838-01-01T00:00:00+0000Cohnheim was a renowned 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. 1839-07-20T00:00:00+0000Born in Germany, Serturner 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 treating pain. It is also used for its calming effects. The discovery of morphine established alkaloid chemistry as a new branch of science.1841-02-20T00:00:00+0000Having trained in medicine in Paris, Holmes became a central figure in the Massachusetts Medical Society and Boston Medical Society. He often criticised traditional medical practices such as blood-letting and promoted the use of both the stethoscope and microscope. Well before the the emergence of the germ theory of disease, Holmes put forward the idea that puerperal fever - a potentially deadly infection contracted by women during or just after childbirth - was caused by unhygienic practices of physicians. Publishing this theory on the back of evidence in 1843, Holmes called for physicians to purify their instruments as well as to burn the clothes they had worn when assisting a fatal delivery and to refrain from obstetric deliveries for a period of at least 6 months. 1841-03-08T00:00:00+0000Kocher was a physician and medical researcher who was a major pioneer in the fields of applied surgery, neurosurgery and, especially, thyroid surgery and endocrinology. His success in the field of surgery is attributed to his implementation of antiseptic wound treatment, use of special masks on patients for anaesthesia and controlling blood loss during surgery. Kocher was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1909 for his work on the physiology, pathology and surgery of the thyroid. He was the first Swiss person and first surgeon to ever receive the prize. Within the field of neurosurgery he showed that some epilepsy cases were caused by brain tumours that could be surgically removed.1841-08-25T00:00:00+0000von Nageli identified string-like bodies in cell nucleus. He did not know they played role in heredity. 1842-01-01T00:00:00+0000Flemming was a biologist who is credited with the foundation of cytogenetics. He was the first to describe the behaviour of chromosomes during cell division, a process he called mitosis. This he discovered through investigations of the fins and gills of salamanders. He first published his findings in 1878. In addition to his pioneering scientific work, Flemming is famous for his social activism. Notably he fed the homeless on a weekly basis and donated 20% of his salary to homeless shelters. He also taught mathematics and science to children too poor to attend school. 1843-04-21T00:00:00+0000Golgi was a cytologist and pathologist who shared the 1906 Nobel Prize in Medicine for research into the nervous system. He developed a microscopic staining technique, using silver compounds, for seeing new and unseen structures in nerve tissues and individual neurons in the brain. This he invented in 1873 while working as chief medical officer at the Hospital for the Chronically ill. Golgi was the first to provide clear descriptions of the structure of the cerebellum, hippocampus, spinal cord and olfactory lobe. He also defined striatal and cortical lesions in the case of chorea, a neurological disorder. 1843-07-07T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
1827Term 'spermatozoa' introduced for the first timevon BaerSt Petersburg Academy of SciencesReproduction
28 Jan 1827Jean-Antoine Villemin was born in Prey, Vosages, FranceVillemin Infectious diseases
5 Apr 1827Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UKListerGlasgow University, King's College London 
23 Jul 1828Jonathan Hutchinson was born in Selby, Yorkshire, UKHutchinson  
18 Dec 1829Jean-Baptiste Lamarck diedLamarckFrench Academy of SciencesEpigenetics, Genetics
1833The first enzymes were isolatedPayen, Persoz  
3 Dec 1833Carlos J Finlay was born in Puerto Príncipe, CubaFinlay Infectious diseases
6 Feb 1834Edwin Klebs was born in Konigsberg, Prussia (now Germany)KlebsUniversity of BernBacteriology, Infectious diseases
4 Apr 1835John H Jackson was born in Green Hampton, Yorkshire, United KingdomJacksonNational Hospital for Neurology and NeurosurgeryNeuroscience
19 Jun 1836Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was bornGarrett AndersonRoyal Free Hospital 
20 Jul 1836Thomas Clifford Allbutt was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, UKAllbuttUniversity of CambridgeDiagnostics, Cardiovascular
28 Mar 1837Willhelm Kuhne was born in Hamburg, GermanyKuhneUniversity of HeidelbergBiochemistry, Physiology
1838The term 'protein' first coinedBerzeliusRoyal Swedish Academy of Sciences 
20 Jul 1839Julius F Cohnheim born Demmin, Pomerania, GermanyCohnheimUniversity of Kiel, University of Breslau, University of LeipzigPathology, Oncology
20 Feb 1841Friedrich Serturner diedSerturner Chemistry
8 Mar 1841Olive Wendell Holmes Jr was born in Boston, MA, USAWendell Holmes Infectious diseases
25 Aug 1841Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, SwitzerlandKocherUniversity of BerneNeuroscience, Endocrinology, Surgery
1842First observation of chromosomes by Swiss botanist Karl von NageliNageliGenetics, DNA
21 Apr 1843Walther Flemming was born in Schwerin, GermanyFlemmingUniversity of KielCell, Genetics
7 Jul 1843Camillo Golgi was born in Corteno, ItalyGolgiUniversity of PaviaNeuroscience


Term 'spermatozoa' introduced for the first time

28 Jan 1827

Jean-Antoine Villemin was born in Prey, Vosages, France

5 Apr 1827

Joseph Lister was born in West Ham, London, UK

23 Jul 1828

Jonathan Hutchinson was born in Selby, Yorkshire, UK

18 Dec 1829

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck died


The first enzymes were isolated

3 Dec 1833

Carlos J Finlay was born in Puerto Príncipe, Cuba

6 Feb 1834

Edwin Klebs was born in Konigsberg, Prussia (now Germany)

4 Apr 1835

John H Jackson was born in Green Hampton, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

19 Jun 1836

Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was born

20 Jul 1836

Thomas Clifford Allbutt was born in Dewsbury, Yorkshire, UK

28 Mar 1837

Willhelm Kuhne was born in Hamburg, Germany


The term 'protein' first coined

20 Jul 1839

Julius F Cohnheim born Demmin, Pomerania, Germany

20 Feb 1841

Friedrich Serturner died

8 Mar 1841

Olive Wendell Holmes Jr was born in Boston, MA, USA

25 Aug 1841

Emil Theodor Kocher was born in Berne, Switzerland


First observation of chromosomes by Swiss botanist Karl von Nageli

21 Apr 1843

Walther Flemming was born in Schwerin, Germany

7 Jul 1843

Camillo Golgi was born in Corteno, Italy

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