Rockefeller University: Timeline of key events

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Loeb was a physiologist and biologist who demonstrated the possibility of reproduction without male fertilisation, parthenogenesis, in sea urchin eggs. He found it was possible to stimulate embryonic development in the eggs of sea urchins without sperm by making slight chemical changes to the water where the eggs were kept. This he discovered while conducting experiments at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. His results were published in 'Activation of the unfertilized egg by ultra-violet rays', Science, 40/1036 (1914), 680-1. While Loeb was nominated for the Nobel Prize many times he never won. 1859-04-07T00:00:00+0000Landsteiner was an immunologist and pathologist who has been called the founder of transfusion medicine. In 1930 he won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the main human blood types (A, B and O), published in 1901, and for his development of the ABO system of blood typing which enabled blood transfusion to become a safe medical procedure. In 1909 he also helped discover the microorganism responsible for poliovirus which provided the foundation for the development of the polio vaccine. He also discovered the Rh factor in 1940. This is an inherited protein found on the surface of red blood cells. This can cause problems in pregnancy for women with the Rh-negative blood group whose foetus has the Rh-positive blood group. 1868-06-14T00:00:00+0000Wollstein was a pioneer paediatric pathologist at a time when women rarely worked in the field of pathology. One of her key contributions was the development of antiserum therapies to treat both paediatric and adult infectious diseases, including a potent polyvalent antiserum to treat meningitis. She was the first woman to ever be elected a member of the American Pediatric Society. In 1904 she joined the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research where she did important experimental work on polio, pneumonia and other diseases. Her work was important for showing that mumps could be viral in nature. 1868-11-21T00:00:00+0000A Russian-American biochemist, Levene discovered nucleic acids came in two forms: DNA and RNA. He also idenified the components of DNA: adenine, guanine, thymine, cytosine, deoxyribose and a phosphate group and showed that these components were linked together by nucleotides, phosphate-sugar base units. Born to Jewish parents, Levene emigrated to the US in 1893 as a result of anti-semitic pogroms. He was appointed the head of the biochemical laboratory at the Rockefeller Institute of Medical Research in 1905 where he spent the rest of his career. 1869-02-25T00:00:00+0000Carrel was a surgeon and biologist. Inspired by lessons he took from from an embroideress, he developed new techniques for suturing blood vessels that minimised damage to the vascular wall. He was awarded the 1912 Nobel Prize for Medicine in recognition of 'his work on vascular structure and the transplantation of blood vessels and organs'. During World War I he helped develop a new method for treating wounds based on chlorine, which was a major advance in the care of traumatic wounds. In the 1930s he helped create a glass perfusion pump, a forerunner to the artificial heart. His reputation later became marred in controversy because of his strong support for Eugenic policies of sterilisation for those with families with hereditary diseases and a criminal history as well euthanasia for the mentally defective. In 1944 he was singled out for collaboration with the Nazis under the Vichy government, but he died before going on trial. 1873-06-28T00:00:00+0000Noguchi is best remembered for his identification, in 1913, of the causative agent of syphilis (the bacteria Treponema pallidum), and identification of the pathogen responsible for Carrion's disease (a Leishmania parasite). Unable to get a medical position in Japan because of his hand deformity which potential employers feared would put off potential patients, Noguchi spent his life doing laboratory work in the United States. While valued in his lifetime, his reputation took a battering after his death because researchers struggled to reproduce some of his claims, including having discovered the cause of yellow fever, polio and rabies.1876-11-24T00:00:00+0000Avery was a physician and bacteriologist who provided the first evidence that that genes are made up of DNA. In 1944 he and colleagues conducted a series of experiments in mice using two sets of bacteria, one smooth (virulent) and the other rough (nonvirulent), associated with pneumonia. In the first instance they injected the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which went on to die. Next they injected the non-virulent bacteria into a mouse, which survived. They then heated the virulent bacteria to kill it and injected it into a mouse, which survived. Following this they injected a mixture of heat-killed bacteria with the virulent bacteria into the mouse, which died. Finally they injected a mixture of harmless bacteria with DNA extracted from the heated lethal bacteria in a mouse which died. The experiment showed that the harmless bacteria became lethal when mixed with DNA from the virulent bacteria. 1877-10-21T00:00:00+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+0000Heidelberger was one of the founders of immunochemistry, 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 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+0000Gasser was a physiologist. He shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering different fibres in nerves that conduct electrochemical pulses at different rates. Together with Joseph 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 fibre 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+0000Rivers was a bacteriologist and virologist whose development of a tissue culture for the vaccinia virus, in 1931, paved the way to the development of a vaccine against yellow-fever. He also made important contributions to understanding the viral causes of influenza and chickenpox. Rivers served as the director of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research (1937-56) and chaired the virus research committee of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis (now the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) (1938-1955) which oversaw the development of the Salk and Sabin vaccines against polio. 1888-09-03T00:00:00+0000Northrop shared the 1946 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for helping to develop the technique for purifying and crystallising enzymes and virus proteins. His work showed that enzymes obey the laws of chemical reactions and that they are proteins. In 1930 he crystallised pepsin, an enzyme present in gastric juice necessary for digestion. Eight years later he isolated the first bacterial virus (bacteriophage). This he proved to be a nucleoprotein. Other enzymes that he managed to isolate and crystalise were trypsin and chymotrypsin, both important to the digestive process.1891-07-05T00:00:00+0000This was done by Jacques Loeb. 1897-01-01T00:00:00+0000Wyckoff was a major pioneer of x-ray crystallography of bacteria. He helped develop a high-speed centrifuge for segregating microscopic and submicroscopic material to determine the sizes and molecular weights of small particles. In addition he purified the virus that causes equine encephalomyelitis which laid the foundation for the development of a vaccine to combat an epidemic of the disease in horses. His work in this field enabled him to create a vaccine against epidemic typhus for use in World War II. 1897-08-09T00:00:00+0000Claude was a physician and cell biologist. In 1930 he developed the process of cell fractionation which involves grinding up cells to break up the membrane and their contents. The material is then placed in a centrifuge to separate out the cells's components. Claude used the technique to identify and purify the RNA from the Rous sarcoma virus which causes cancer in chickens. He was also one of the first to use of the electron microscope to study biological cells, which enabled him to discover that ribosomes are the power houses of all cells. Later on Claude helped to show that all eukaryotic cells have a lace-work structure. In 1974 he shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for discoveries concerning cell structure and function. 1898-08-24T00:00:00+0000Stanley was a biochemist and virologist. In 1935 he managed to crystalise the tobacco virus, the causative agent of plant disease. This was a major breakthrough because prior to this no scientists had succeeded in finding out what viruses were. His work laid the foundation for other scientists, using x-ray diffraction, to work out the precise molecular structures and reproduction process of several viruses. During World War II he managed to purify several of the most common influenza viruses and developed a vaccine that was partly effective. In 1946 he shared the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for the 'preparation of enzymes and virus proteins in a pure form.'1904-08-16T00:00:00+0000Chase was an immunologist who in the early 1940s discovered that white blood cells trigger the immune response in the body confronting a foreign invader. His finding laid to rest the belief that antibodies by themselves could protect the body from allergies and pathogens. Chase also uncovered the second arm of the immune system, known as cell-mediated immunity, paving the way to the discovery of lymphocyte cells and B and T cells.1905-09-17T00:00:00+0000Phoebus Levene, a Russian-American biochemist, describes the building blocks of DNA, including four types of bases: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T) .1910-01-01T00:00:00+0000Known now as the Rous sarcoma virus, the virus was first reported by Peyton Rous. He made the discovery that a virus could cause cancer after a farmer presented him with a hen with a large lump in her breast. He found that extracts from the tumour in the hend could cause cancer in Plymouth Rock chickens. Rous published his seminal finding in two articles: 'Transmission of a malignant new growth by means of a cell-free filtrate', JAMA, 56 (1911), 198 and 'A sarcoma of the fowl transmissible by an agent separable from the tumor cells', Journal Experimental Medicine, 13 (1911), 397-411. The 1911-01-01T00:00:00+0000Stein was a biochemist who shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for contributing to understanding the composition and functioning of ribonuclease, an enzyme that catalyses the break down of RNA into smaller components. It was the first structure and sequence worked out for any enzyme. Stein carried out the work with his colleague Stanford Moore in 1963. The two scientists were aided by their invention of the first means for automated amino acid analysis. In addition to his work on ribonuclease, Stein showed how proteins that are comprised of the same amino acids can have very different characteristics and functions. 1911-06-25T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
7 Apr 1859Jacques Loeb was born in Mayen, Germany LoebRockefeller UniversityReproduction
14 Jun 1868Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, AustriaLandsteinerRockefeller InstituteImmunology
21 Nov 1868Martha Wollstein was born in New York City, USAWollsteinRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchAntibodies, Infectious diseases
25 Feb 1869Phoebus Levene was born in Sagor, Russia (now Zagare, Lithuania)LeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
28 Jun 1873Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, FranceCarrelRockefeller UniversityTransplantation
24 Nov 1876Hideyo Noguchi was bornNoguchiRockefeller InstituteBacteriology, Infectious diseases
21 Oct 1877 Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, CanadaAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA
5 Oct 1879Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USARousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
29 Apr 1888Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USAHeidelbergerRockefeller Institute, Columbia UniversityAntibodies, Immunology
5 Jul 1888Herbert Spencer Gasser was born in Platteville WI, USAGasserRockefeller InstituteNeuroscience
3 Sep 1888Thomas M Rivers was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, USARiversRockefeller Institute Virology, Bacteriology, Vaccines
Jul 1891John H Northrop born in Yonkers NY, USANorthropRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry
1897Cells isolated from blood and connective tissue shown to survive in serum and plasmaLoebRockefeller UniversityCell culture
9 Aug 1897Ralph W G Wyckoff was born in Geneva, NY, USAWyckoffRockefeller University, University of Michigan, University of ArizonaBacteriology, Virology, Vaccines
24 Aug 1898Albert Claude was born in Longlier, BelgiumClaudeRockefeller Institute, Jules Bordet Institute, University of BrusselsCell
16 Aug 1904Wendell M Stanley was born in Ridgeville IN, USAStanleyRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry, Virology, Vaccines
17 Sep 1905Merrill W Chase born in Providence, RI, USAChaseRockefeller UniversityAntibodies, Immunology
1910First description of the building blocks of DNALeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
1911First cancer-causing virus discoveredRousRockefeller UniversityOncology, Virology
25 Jun 1911William H Stein was born in New York NY, USASteinRockefeller UniversityRNA, Biochemistry

7 Apr 1859

Jacques Loeb was born in Mayen, Germany

14 Jun 1868

Karl Landsteiner was born in Vienna, Austria

21 Nov 1868

Martha Wollstein was born in New York City, USA

25 Feb 1869

Phoebus Levene was born in Sagor, Russia (now Zagare, Lithuania)

28 Jun 1873

Alexis Carrel was born in Sainte-Foy-lès-Lyon, France

24 Nov 1876

Hideyo Noguchi was born

21 Oct 1877

Oswald T Avery was born in Halifax, Canada

5 Oct 1879

Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USA

29 Apr 1888

Michael Heidelberger was born in New York City, USA

5 Jul 1888

Herbert Spencer Gasser was born in Platteville WI, USA

3 Sep 1888

Thomas M Rivers was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, USA

3 Sep 1888

John H Northrop born in Yonkers NY, USA


Cells isolated from blood and connective tissue shown to survive in serum and plasma

9 Aug 1897

Ralph W G Wyckoff was born in Geneva, NY, USA

24 Aug 1898

Albert Claude was born in Longlier, Belgium

16 Aug 1904

Wendell M Stanley was born in Ridgeville IN, USA

17 Sep 1905

Merrill W Chase born in Providence, RI, USA


First description of the building blocks of DNA


First cancer-causing virus discovered

25 Jun 1911

William H Stein was born in New York NY, USA

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