Harvard University: Timeline of key events

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Cannon was a neurologist and physiologist who is renowned for being the first to use X rays in physiological studies. He also advanced understandings about homeostasis, the process by which the body maintains its temperature. In 1915 he coined the term 'flight or fight response' to describe the physiological reaction that takes place in response to a perceived harmful event, attack or threat to survival. He also developed methods for storing blood and in 1931 discovered sympathin, an adrenaline-like substance released at the tips of certain nerve ends. 1871-10-19T00:00:00+0000A 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+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+0000Cohn developed a fractionation technique to separate blood into its components, paving the way to safer blood transfusion. During World War II he worked out methods for isolating serum albumin from blood plasma which is crucial to maintaining osmotic pressure in blood vessels and preventing their collapse. Thousands of soldiers were successfully treated on the battlefield with transfusions of purified albumin. Cohn subsequently developed mechanisms so that every component of blood could be used in transfusions.1892-12-17T00:00:00+0000Fieser was an organic chemist. He won many research awards for his work on blood-clotting agents, including for the synthesis of vitamin K, which he achieved in 1939 and for which he was nominated as a contender for the Nobel Prize in 1941 and 1942 (when no prizes were awarded). His work on steroids also laid the foundation for the synthesis of cortisone. In addition he helped develop quinones as antimalarial drugs. Fieser had two chemical reagents named after him. He is also famous for the creation of napalm, a flammable liquid he developed during World War II, which was controversially used as an incendiary device in the Vietnam war. 1899-04-07T00:00:00+0000Julian was a chemist who was a renowned pioneer of pharmacological synthesis. He was the first African-American granted a doctoral degree in chemistry and the first to be inducted into the National Academy of Sciences. In 1935 he achieved the first synthesis of physostigmine. This he produced from soybean oil. The drug is used to treat glaucoma and delayed gastric emptying. A year later he joined the Gidden Company in Chicago where he oversaw the development of the industrial large-scale chemical synthesis of the human sex hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone from soybean plant sterols. This work laid the foundation for the industrial production of cortisone, other corticosteroids, and the oral contraceptive pill. Julian left Gidden in 1953 to found his own company, Julian Laboratories Inc. 1899-04-11T00:00:00+0000Lipmann was a biochemist who shared the 1953 Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of coenzyme A. He made the discovery in 1947 when examining pigeon liver extracts. Coenzyme A is one of the most important substances involved in cellular metabolism. It helps convert amino acids, fatty acids and haemoglobulins into energy. Lipmann directed the biochemistry research department at Massachusetts General Hospital and was professor of biological chemistry at Harvard Medical school.1899-06-12T00:00:00+0000Pincus was a biologist. He first came to public attention in 1934 when he announced the creation of baby rabbits with in vitro fertilisation. His technique involved the removal of an ovum from the mother rabbit, soaking it in a solution with a mixture of saline and estrone and then placing it back in the rabbit. The experiment could not be repeated by other scientists and prompted wide-scale condemnation. It cost him his tenure position at Harvard University. In order to continue his research Pincus helped found the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology in 1944, where he led the development of the first contraceptive pill in the early 1950s. 1903-04-09T00:00:00+0000Wald was an American biologist renowned for his research on how the eye passes images to the brain. He first made his mark in the early 1930s when he discovered that vitamin A was an important component in rhodopsin, a light-sensitive biological pigment found in the rods of the retina. Over the next 30 years he conducted a series of experiments which showed when exposed to light rhodopsin changes its form which triggers signals in a complicated network of optic nerve cells which eventually convert into visual impressions in the brain. In 1967 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the primary physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.'physiological and chemical visual processes in the eye.'1906-11-18T00:00:00+0000Bloch was a biochemist who shared the 1964 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for helping to uncover the mechanism and regulation of cholesterol and fatty acid metabolism. This work laid the foundation for understanding the relationship between blood cholesterol levels and atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside the body's arteries. 1912-01-21T00:00:00+0000Porter was a Canadian biologist. He is renowned for having developed many of the techniques and experimental approaches that underpinned the founding of cellular biology as a new discipline in biomedical research. Critically he developed the first electron microscope techniques to get high resolution images of cells and tissues. In 1945 he published the first electron microgragh of a complete animal cell. His other major contributions to the field was his development a roller-flask for culturing cells and helping to invent an instrument for getting ultra-thin slices of tissue for microscopy.1912-06-11T00:00:00+0000Weller was a physician and virologist whose development of tissue-culture methods, with John P. Enders and Frederick C. Robbins, in October 1949 opened up the means to study viral diseases. Their work paved the way to the development of the polio vaccine. The virus was grown in cultures of human foreskin and embryonic tissues. Weller shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954 for the 'discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue.'1915-06-15T00:00:00+0000Woodward as an organic chemist who won the 1965 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for opening up the field of artificial synthesis. He first made his mark in the early 1940s by demonstrating the application of ultraviolet spectroscopy for elucidating the structure of natural products. His method helped reduce the long and extremely tedious steps previously used to decipher the chemical structures of such products. In 1944 he and his postdoctoral researcher, William von Eggers Doering reported the successful synthesis of quinine, an organic compound used for the treatment for malaria. He went on to synthesis other organic compounds like cholesterol, cortisone, strychnine, and chlorophyll. 1917-04-10T00:00:00+0000Benacerraf was an immunologist who, based on experiments with guinea pigs in the 1960s, provided the pathway to understand how T lymphocytes recognise structures on the cell surface of foreign substances that invade the body. He showed that immune responses are controlled by genes that exist in a certain area on a certain chromosome. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1980 for his discoveries of genes that regulate immune responses and the role some of these genes play in autoimmune disorders. Born in Venezuaela and brought up in Paris, Bernaceraf and his parents were forced to move to United States in 1940 because of their Jewish heritage. 1920-10-29T00:00:00+0000Lloyd Felton, a scientist, develops a precipitation technique for the isolation of pure antibodies as part of an effort to develop a therapy for pneumonia. 1926-01-01T00:00:00+0000Invented by Philip Drinker, a young doctor at Harvard, the Iron Lung was the first artificial respirator to help patients to breathe despite being paralysed by polio. Treatment involved sealing a patient into a galvanised iron box from the neck down. Powered by by an electric motor with air pumps from two household vacuum cleaners the box had air pumped in and out to mimic the breathing rate of the patient. The first patient to use the machine was an eight year old girl paralysed with polio being cared for at Children's Hospital in Boston. She made a dramatic recovery within less than a minute of being in the device. The Iron Lung became obsolete after the arrival of the polio vaccine which helped eradicated the disease. 1928-10-12T00:00:00+0000Gilbert is a molecular biologist. He was involved in some of the early efforts to pioneer techniques for determining base sequences in nucleic acids, known known as DNA sequencing, for which he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1980. He was the first scientist to propose the existence of intron and exons. In 1986 Gilbert became a proponent of the theory that the first forms of life evolved out of replicating RNA molecules. The same year he began campaigning to set up the Human Genome Project. He was also a co-founder and the first Chief Executive Officer of Biogen, a biotechnology company originally set up to commercialise genetic engineering.1932-03-21T00:00:00+0000Gregory Pincus, an American biologist, reported that he had managed to fertilise rabbit eggs in vitro. Other scientists struggled to replicate his results which led some to say that his results were due to spontaneous egg activation, a common phenomenon in cultured rabbit eggs. Pincus was subsequently denied tenure at Harvard because of the controversial nature of his work. His research was published in G Pincus, EV Enzmann, 'Can mammalian eggs undergo normal development in vitro', PNAS USA, 20/2 (1934), 121–22.1934-01-04T00:00:00+0000Gregory Pincus and EV Enzmann found that when they isolated rabbit oocytes from the Graafian follicle and placed them in culture they spontaneously developed from the arrested dictyate stage to the metaphase-II stage.1935-01-01T00:00:00+0000The observation was reported by Gregory Pincus and Barbara Saunders, 'The comparative behavior of mammalian eggs in vivo and in vitro: VI. The maturation of human ovarian ova', Anat. Rec., 75 (1939), 537–45.1939-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
19 Oct 1871Walter B Cannon was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, USACannonHarvard Medical SchoolPhysiology
17 Nov 1878Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USAZinsserColumbia University, Stanford University, Harvard UniversityBacteriology, Vaccines
17 Oct 1886Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USAGoodpastureHarvard UniversityVirology, Vaccines
17 Dec 1892Edwin J Cohn was born in New York CityCohnHarvard UniversityBiochemistry
7 Apr 1899Louis F Fieser was born in Columbus, Ohio, USAFieserHarvard University 
11 Apr 1899Percy Lavon Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama, USAJulianHarvard UniversityPharmacology, Reproduction
12 Jun 1899Fritz A Lipmann born in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad), Germany (now Russia)LipmannCornell University, Harvard UniversityNutrition
9 Apr 1903Gregory Pincus was born in Woodbine, NJ, USAPincusHarvard University, Worcester Foundation for Experimental BiologyReproduction
Nov 1906George Wald was born in New York City, USAWaldHarvard University, Physiology
21 Jan 1912Konrad Bloch was born in Neisse (now Nysa), Germany (now Poland)BlochHarvard UniversityBiochemistry
11 Jun 1912Keith Roberts Porter was born in Yarmough, Nova Scotia, CanadaPorterHarvard University, University of ColoradoCell
15 Jun 1915Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USAWellerChildren's Medical Center Boston, Harvard UniversityVirology
10 Apr 1917Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston MA, USAWoodwardHarvard UniversityPharmacology
29 Oct 1920Baruj Benacerraf was born in Caracas, VenezuelaBenacerrafHarvard Medical SchoolImmunology
1926First pure antibody preparation madeFeltonHarvard UniversityAntibodies
12 Oct 1928Iron lung machine used on patient for first timeDrinker Harvard Medical SchoolInfectious diseases, Medical devices, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
21 Mar 1932Walter Gilbert was born in Boston MA, USAGilbertHarvard University, BiogenDNA Sequencing, RNA, Biochemistry
4 Jan 1934First reported attempt of IVF in a mammal Pincus, EnzmannHarvard UniversityReproduction, IVF
1935Rabbit oocytes shown to resume meiosis spontaneously in culturePincus, EnzmannHarvard UniversityEmbryology, Reproduction, IVF
1939Human occytes shown to complete meiosis in vitroPincus, SaundersHarvard UniversityEmbryology, Reproduction, IVF

19 Oct 1871

Walter B Cannon was born in Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, USA

17 Nov 1878

Hans Zinsser was born in New York City, USA

17 Oct 1886

Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USA

17 Dec 1892

Edwin J Cohn was born in New York City

7 Apr 1899

Louis F Fieser was born in Columbus, Ohio, USA

11 Apr 1899

Percy Lavon Julian was born in Montgomery, Alabama, USA

12 Jun 1899

Fritz A Lipmann born in Koenigsberg (now Kaliningrad), Germany (now Russia)

9 Apr 1903

Gregory Pincus was born in Woodbine, NJ, USA

9 Apr 1903

George Wald was born in New York City, USA

21 Jan 1912

Konrad Bloch was born in Neisse (now Nysa), Germany (now Poland)

11 Jun 1912

Keith Roberts Porter was born in Yarmough, Nova Scotia, Canada

15 Jun 1915

Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USA

10 Apr 1917

Robert Burns Woodward was born in Boston MA, USA

29 Oct 1920

Baruj Benacerraf was born in Caracas, Venezuela


First pure antibody preparation made

12 Oct 1928

Iron lung machine used on patient for first time

21 Mar 1932

Walter Gilbert was born in Boston MA, USA

4 Jan 1934

First reported attempt of IVF in a mammal


Rabbit oocytes shown to resume meiosis spontaneously in culture


Human occytes shown to complete meiosis in vitro