Rockefeller University: Timeline of key events

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A 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 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. 1940-09-06T00:00:00+0000Avery made the point in a letter to his brother Roy Avery. 1943-05-15T00:00:00+0000Landsteiner was an Austrian-American 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.1943-06-26T00:00:00+0000The physician-geneticists Oswald Avery, Canadian-born, Colin MacLeod, Canadian-born, and Maclyn McCarty, American-born, published an experiment demonstrating that a harmless bacteria, Streptococcus pneumoniae, can be made virulent by using DNA isolated from a virulent strain. The experiment involved injecting into mice two sets of bacteria, one smooth (virulent) and the other rough (nonvirulent), associated with pneumonia. In the first instance the collaborators 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. The experiment was published in 'Studies on the chemical nature of the substance inducing the transformation of pneumococcal types', Journal of Experimental Medicine, 79/2 (1944), 137-58. 1944-02-01T00:00:00+0000Carrel was a French 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.1944-11-05T00:00:00+0000R.D. Hotchkiss, 'The quantative separation of purines, pyrimidines, and nucleosides by paper chromatography', J Biol Chem, 175/1 (1948), 315-32. 1948-03-10T00:00:00+0000Henry Kunkel, an American immunologist, while studying the blood of patients with myeloma (a type of cancer that develops from plasma cells in the bone marrow) unexpectedly discovers myeloma proteins to resemble normal antibodies.1951-01-01T00:00:00+0000Avery was a Canadian-American 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. 1955-02-02T00:00:00+0000MacKinnon is a molecular neurobiologist amnd biophysicist. In 1998 he helped to establish the 3-D structure of a potassium ion channel - a protein linked to transmitting electrical signals down the nerve and muscle cells. Such channels are important to the nervous system and the heart. They enable potassium ions to cross the cell membrane. By using X-ray crystallography MacKinnon and his colleagues managed to work out the structure of a potassium ion channel from an actinobacteria Streptomyces lividans. MacKinnon was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 2003 on the basis of this work. 1956-02-19T00:00:00+0000The Sabin vaccine is an oral vaccine that contains weakened forms of strains of polio viruses. It proved easier to give than an earlier injectable vaccine developed by Jonas Salk, in 1954, and its effects lasted longer. The vaccine was designed to work in the intestines to block the polio virus from entering the bloodstream. It therefore provided a means to break transmission chain of the virus and opened the way to eradicating polio. 1956-10-06T00:00:00+0000Dubos issued the warning in his book 'The Mirage of Health'.1959-01-01T00:00:00+0000Independently Rodney Porter, a British scientist, and Gerald Edelman, an American biologist, determine the structure of antibodies to consist of heavy and light protein chains, which join together to form three sections yielding a molecule shaped like the letter Y.1962-01-01T00:00:00+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.1962-05-12T00:00:00+0000Gasser was an American physiologist. He shared the 1944 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering different fibers 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 fiber conducts pain signals and others conduct motor control signals. Gasser was the director of the Rockefeller Institute from 1936 to 1953.1963-05-11T00:00:00+0000RW Schaedler, R Dubos, R Costello, 'The development of bacterial flora in the gastrointestinal tract of mice', Journal of Experimental Medicine, 122/1 (1965), 59-66. 1965-07-01T00:00:00+0000Stanley was an American 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.' 1971-06-15T00:00:00+0000An American 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. 1972-02-16T00:00:00+0000Stein was an American 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.1980-02-02T00:00:00+0000An American 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. 1982-08-23T00:00:00+0000Claude was a Belgian 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.1983-05-22T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
6 Sep 1940Phoebus Levene diedLeveneRockefeller UniversityDNA
15 May 1943Oswald claimed DNA to be the 'transforming factor' and the material of genesAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA, genetics
26 Jun 1943Karl Landsteiner diedLandsteinerRockefeller InstituteImmunology
1 Feb 1944DNA identified as a hereditary agentAvery, MacLeod, McCartyRockefeller UniversityDNA
5 Nov 1944Alexis Carrel diedCarrelRockefeller UniversityTransplantation
Mar 1948Hotchkiss discovered the first naturally modifed DNA nucleotide, cytosine, in a chromatography of calf thymus DNAHotchkissRockefeller InstituteEpigenetics
1951Myeloma cells found to resemble normal antibodiesKunkelRockefeller UniversityAntibodies
2 Feb 1955Oswald T Avery diedAveryRockefeller UniversityDNA, Genetics
19 Feb 1956Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USAMackinnonRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry, X ray crystallography
6 Oct 1956Albert Sabin announced his oral polio vaccine was ready for mass testing on an international basisAlbert SabinRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchVaccines
1959Rene Dubos warns infectious disease will never be conquered by antibiotics because of the inevitable evolution of resistanceDubosRockefeller Institute for Medical ResearchAntimicrobial resistance
1962Antibodies discovered to have structure like a 'Y'Porter, EdelmanNational Institute for Medical Research, Rockefeller University Antibodies
12 May 1962Thomas M Rivers diedRiversRockefeller Institute Virology, Bacteriology, Vaccines
11 May 1963Herbert Spencer Gasser diedGasserRockefeller InstituteNeuroscience
1 Jul 1965Experiments in germ-free mice show microbes essential to physiology and health of gastrointestinal tractDubos, Schaedler, Savage, CostelloRockefeller InstituteMicrobiome
15 Jun 1971Wendell M Stanley diedStanleyRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry, Virology, Vaccines
16 Feb 1972Francis Peyton Rous diedRousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
2 Feb 1980William H Stein diedSteinRockefeller UniversityRNA, Biochemistry
23 Aug 1982Stanford Moore diedMooreRockefeller UniversityBiochemistry
22 May 1983Albert Claude died ClaudeRockefeller Institute, Jules Bordet Institute, University of BrusselsCell

6 Sep 1940

Phoebus Levene died

15 May 1943

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

26 Jun 1943

Karl Landsteiner died

1 Feb 1944

DNA identified as a hereditary agent

5 Nov 1944

Alexis Carrel died

Mar 1948

Hotchkiss discovered the first naturally modifed DNA nucleotide, cytosine, in a chromatography of calf thymus DNA

1951

Myeloma cells found to resemble normal antibodies

2 Feb 1955

Oswald T Avery died

19 Feb 1956

Roderick MacKinnon was born in Burlington MA, USA

6 Oct 1956

Albert Sabin announced his oral polio vaccine was ready for mass testing on an international basis

1959

Rene Dubos warns infectious disease will never be conquered by antibiotics because of the inevitable evolution of resistance

1962

Antibodies discovered to have structure like a 'Y'

12 May 1962

Thomas M Rivers died

11 May 1963

Herbert Spencer Gasser died

1 Jul 1965

Experiments in germ-free mice show microbes essential to physiology and health of gastrointestinal tract

15 Jun 1971

Wendell M Stanley died

16 Feb 1972

Francis Peyton Rous died

2 Feb 1980

William H Stein died

23 Aug 1982

Stanford Moore died

22 May 1983

Albert Claude died

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