Rockefeller University: Timeline of key events

Mouseover the event title for a more detailed description of the event (if available). To search for particular terms in the description of the event enter the term in the box below 'Event' on the table and press 'enter'. Alternatively use the dropdown lists to filter by Person, Place or Science. Click here to clear the filter.

Palade was a cell biologist who helped determine cell function and organisation. He and his colleagues demonstrated that all plant cells and some animal and bacteria cells have a vacuole, an enclosed compartment in the cell membrane, which contains enzymes essential to maintaining the cell's health. In 1974 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his innovations in electron microscopy and cell fractionation, which laid the foundation for molecular cell biology, and his discovery of the ribosomes of endoplastic reticulum in 1955. 1912-11-19T00:00:00+0000A biochemist, Moore helped develop the first automated amino acid analyser in 1958. The machine transformed the ability to analyse the amino acid sequences of proteins. Together with William H Stein, Moore used the machine to determine the amino acid sequence of the ribonuclease molecule. Moore shared the 1972 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for this work. 1913-09-04T00:00:00+0000 JB Murphy, 'Studies on tissue specificity', Journal of Experimental Medicine, 19 (1914), 181-86.1914-01-01T00:00:00+0000The experiments involved increasing the number of lymphocytes in the blood of mice by treating them with low doses of X-rays. JB Murphy, JJ Morton, 'The effects of X-rays on the resistance to cancer in mice', Science, 42 (1915), 842. 1915-01-01T00:00:00+0000The trials were carried out by James B Murphy and colleagues at the Rockefeller Institute. 1916-01-01T00:00:00+0000de Duve was a cytologist and biochemist. The son of Belgian refugees who fled to England during World War I, de Duve is associated with the discovery of peroxisome and lysosome in the 1950s and 1960s. They are two specialised subunits found within the cell and are vital to the function of the cell. His work paved the way to unravelling the biology of several genetic diseases. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1974 on the back of his 'discoveries concerning the structural and functional organisation of the cell.' de Duve helped determine the structure and function of parts of the cell. 1917-10-02T00:00:00+0000A geneticist by training, Sager enjoyed two careers. She first made her mark in the 1950s and 1950s when she discovered the transmission of genetic traits through chloroplast DNA. This was the first example of genetics not involving the cell nucleus. Later on, in the early 1970s, she became a major pioneer in cancer genetics. She was one of the first to propose and investigate the function of tumour suppressor genes. 1918-02-07T00:00:00+0000Daly trained as a biochemist and was the first Black American woman to earn a doctorate in chemistry (from Columbia University, 1947). Her early research looked at the effects of cholesterol on the mechanisms of the heart, the effects sugars and other nutrients on the health of the arteries and the impact of advanced aged and hypertension on the circulatory system. This she did at Rockefeller Institute in New York. She subsequently joined Columbia University where she investigated how proteins are produced and organised in the cell. In addition to her scientific work, Daly was an ardent campaigner for getting minority students into medical school and graduate science programmes. 1921-04-16T00:00:00+0000Merrifield was a biochemist and organic chemist. In 1984 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for inventing a process known as solid phase peptide synthesis. He developed the technique in 1965. It provided a methodology for chemical synthesis on a solid matrix. By the mid-1960s he and his team had proved the method could be used to synthesise bradykinin, angiotensin, desamino-oxytocin and insulin. In 1969 they managed to synthesise the enzyme, ribonuclease A. This was the first proof of the chemical nature of enzymes. Merrifield's method is now a rountine method for automatically synthesising large proteins, novel nucleotides, or short fragments of DNA.1921-07-15T00:00:00+0000Known as the Carrel or T flask, this vessel was developed by Alexis Carrel. The flask had an angled neck to prevent airborne particles from falling into the flask when it was open. The neck could also be sterilised with a flame both before and after adding or removing nutrient broth. 1923-01-01T00:00:00+0000Loeb was a German-American 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. 1924-02-11T00:00:00+0000Greengard is a neurobiologist who shared the 2000 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of how the neurotransmitter, dopamine, functions in the nervous system. Beginning this work in the late 1960s, Greengaard showed that dopamine binds to receptors on the outer membrane of a neuron. This stimulates a second messenger, cyclic AMP, which in itself activates an enzyme that adds phosphate molecules to other proteins in the neuron. Greengard's work has paved the way to greater understanding of certain neurological and psychiatric disorders and development of new treatments. 1925-12-11T00:00:00+0000The vaccine was developed by Alexis Carel with Tom Rivers. It was made from vaccinia, or cowpox virus, collected from calf lymph fluid. The vaccine did not prove successful as it did not provide sufficient protection against smallpox, but it showed a way of developing safer vaccines by growing the virus in tissue culture. The technique was published in A Carrel, TM Rivers, 'La Fabrication du vaccin in vitro', Comptes Rendus Soc Biol, 96 (1927), 848. One of the advantages with the new method was that the vaccine had fewer side effects and did not leave a scar after vaccination. 1927-01-01T00:00:00+0000Noguchi was a Japanese bacteriologist. He 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. 1928-05-21T00:00:00+0000Zinder was a biologist who discovered how hereditary information is transferred from one organism to another. The process is known as genetic transduction. Carrying out experiments with the bacteria species Salmonella, Zinder discovered that bacteriophages, a type of virus, carry genes from one bacterium to another. He did the work with Joshua Lederberg, his doctoral supervisor. 1928-11-07T00:00:00+0000Edelman was a biologist renowned for his research on antibodies. His research helped determine the chemical structure of antibodies in the early 1960s. It showed that antibodies were made up of two light and heavy chains linked together by disulfide bonds. The breakthrough immediately galvanised feverish activity in all fields of immunological science, paving the way to the development of antibodies for both diagnostics and therapy. Edelman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1972 for his work.1929-07-01T00:00:00+0000The term was coined by Warren Weaver to convey the idea of the physical and chemical explanations of life. 1938-01-01T00:00:00+0000Wollstein was a pioneering American 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.1939-09-30T00:00:00+0000A Russian-American biochemist, Levene discovered nucleic acids came in two forms: DNA and RNA. He also identified 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 Lithuanian Jewish parents, Levene emigrated to the US in 1893 as a result of anti-semitic progroms. 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. 1940-09-06T00:00:00+0000Avery made the point in a letter to his brother Roy Avery. 1943-05-15T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
19 Nov 1912George E Palade was born in Iasi, RomaniaPaladeRockefeller UniversityCell
4 Sep 1913Stanford Moore was born in Chicago IL, USAMooreRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry
1914Experiments by James B Murphy demonstrate that lymphocytes help animals reject grafted tumoursMurphyRockefeller IntituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
1915 James B Murphy puts forward hypothesis that the nonspecific stimulation of lymphocytes could provide a cure for cancer based on experiments he and John J Morton carried out on miceMurphy, MortonRockefeller InstituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
1916 - 1922Disappointing results reported from clinical trials treating breast cancer patients with low doses of X-ray radiation following tumour removal, discrediting the theory that stimulation of lymphocytes could help cure cancer. MurphyRockefeller InstituteImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology
2 Oct 1917Christian R de Duve was born in Thames Ditton, UKde DuveRockefeller UniversityCell
7 Feb 1918Ruth Sager was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, USASagerRockefeller UniversityGenetics, Oncology
16 Apr 1921Marie M Daly was born in Corona, Queens, NY, USAMary DalyRockefeller Institute, Columbia UniversityBiochemistry, Cardiovascular
15 Jul 1921Robert Bruce Merrifield born in Fort Worth, Texas, USAMerrifieldRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry
1923First specifically designed cell culture vessel CarrelRockefeller UniversityCell culture
11 Feb 1924Jacques Loeb diedLoebRockefeller UniversityReproduction
11 Dec 1925Paul Greengard was born in New York, USAGreengardRockefeller UniversityNeuroscience
1927First viral vaccine developedCarrel, RiversRockefeller UniversityCell culture, Vaccines
21 May 1928Hideyo Noguchi diedNoguchiRockefeller InstituteBacteriology, Infectious diseases
7 Nov 1928Norton D Zinder was born New York City, USAZinderRockefeller UniversityGenetics
1 Jul 1929Gerald M Edelman was born in New York NY, USAEdelmanRockefeller UniversityAntibodies, Immunology
1938First use of the term 'molecular biology'WeaverRockefeller University 
30 Sep 1939Martha Wollstein diedWollsteinRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchAntibodies, Infectious diseases
6 Sep 1940Phoebus Levene diedLeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
15 May 1943Oswald claimed DNA to be the 'transforming factor' and the material of genesAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA, genetics

19 Nov 1912

George E Palade was born in Iasi, Romania

4 Sep 1913

Stanford Moore was born in Chicago IL, USA


Experiments by James B Murphy demonstrate that lymphocytes help animals reject grafted tumours


James B Murphy puts forward hypothesis that the nonspecific stimulation of lymphocytes could provide a cure for cancer based on experiments he and John J Morton carried out on mice

1916 - 1922

Disappointing results reported from clinical trials treating breast cancer patients with low doses of X-ray radiation following tumour removal, discrediting the theory that stimulation of lymphocytes could help cure cancer.

2 Oct 1917

Christian R de Duve was born in Thames Ditton, UK

7 Feb 1918

Ruth Sager was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, USA

16 Apr 1921

Marie M Daly was born in Corona, Queens, NY, USA

15 Jul 1921

Robert Bruce Merrifield born in Fort Worth, Texas, USA


First specifically designed cell culture vessel

11 Feb 1924

Jacques Loeb died

11 Dec 1925

Paul Greengard was born in New York, USA


First viral vaccine developed

21 May 1928

Hideyo Noguchi died

7 Nov 1928

Norton D Zinder was born New York City, USA

1 Jul 1929

Gerald M Edelman was born in New York NY, USA


First use of the term 'molecular biology'

30 Sep 1939

Martha Wollstein died

6 Sep 1940

Phoebus Levene died

15 May 1943

Oswald claimed DNA to be the 'transforming factor' and the material of genes

Respond to or comment on this page on our feeds on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.