Genetics: Timeline of key events

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The first genetic fingerprint was discovered by accident by Alec Jeffrey when conducting experiments to look at how genetic variations evolved. 1984-09-10T00:00:00+0000A. Bird, M. Taggart, M. Frommer, O.J. Miller, D. Macleod, ‘A fraction of the mouse genome that is derived from islands of nonmethylated, CpG-rich DNA’, Cell, 40/1 (1985 Jan;40(1):91-9. 1985-01-01T00:00:00+0000This was developed by the British geneticist Alec Jeffreys. He developed the technique as part of his efforts to trace genes through family lineages. It was based on his discovery that each individual had unique numbers of repeated DNA fragments, called restriction fragment length polymorphisms, in their cells. The principle was described in A J Jeffreys, V Wilson, S L Thein, 'Hypervariable 'minisatellite' regions in human DNA', Nature, 314 (1985), 67-73. 1985-03-07T00:00:00+0000Undertaken to prove maternity of a 15 year old boy threatened with deportation to Ghana by the UK Home Office because of doubts over the identity of his mother, an immigrant based in the UK. The test proved the boy was related to his mother. Without the test the mother and son would not have been able to remain together in the same country. 1985-05-17T00:00:00+0000T. Bestor, A. Laudano, R. Mattaliano, V. Ingram, 'Cloning and sequencing of a cDNA encoding DNA methyltransferase of mouse cells', Journal Molecular Biology, 203 (1988), 971–83. 1988-10-20T00:00:00+0000Beadle, an American geneticist, was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1958 for discovering the role of genes in regulating biochemical events within cells. He made the discovery in collaboration with Edward Tatum while conducting experiments that exposed Neurospora crassa, a the bread mould, to x-rays to cause mutations. They found that the mutations caused changes in specific enzymes that were involved in metabolic pathways. The work was done at Stanford University.1989-06-09T00:00:00+0000V. Greger, E. Passarge, W. Hopping, E. Messmer, B. Horsthemke, 'Epigenetic changes may contribute to the formation and spontaneous regression of retinoblastoma', Human Genetics, 83 (1989), 155–58. 1989-09-01T00:00:00+0000The was determined by a team led by Marie-Claire King who conducted a genetic analysis of 23 extended families, a total of 329 relatives. J Hall, M Lee, B Newman, J Morrow, L Anderson, B Huey, M King, 'Linkage of early-onset familial breast cancer to chromosome 17q21', Science, 250/4988 (1990): 1684–89. 1990-12-01T00:00:00+0000Luria was an IItalian microbiologist who made his name in 1943 when he demonstrated, with Max Delbruck, that viruses undergo permanent changes in their hereditary material. The same year he and Delbruck showed phage-resistant bacteria resulted from spontaneous mutations rather than as a direct response to environmental changes. Their work helped explain how bacteria develop antibiotic resistance. Luria had landed up working with Delbruck in the US because he was banned from academic research fellowships in Italy under Mussolini's Italian fascist regime because of his Jewish background. In 1969 Luria was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for helping to discover the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.1991-02-06T00:00:00+0000M. Frommer, L.E. McDonald, D.S. Millar, C.M. Collis, F. Watt, G.W. Grigg, P.L. Molloy, C.L. Paul, 'A genomic sequencing protocol that yields a positive display of 5-methylcytosine residues in individual DNA strands', PNAS, 89/5 (1992), 1827-31.1992-03-01T00:00:00+0000Mouse genetated with genes knocked out that produce the enzyme DNA methyltransfgerase involved in DNA methylation. E. Li, T.H. Bestor, R. Jaenisch, 'Targeted mutation of the DNA methyltransferase gene results in embryonic lethality', Cell, 69/6 (1992), 915-26.1992-06-12T00:00:00+0000McClintock was a pioneer in the field of cytogenetics, a branch of genetics concerned with how chromosomes affect cell behaviour. Based on her investigation of how chromosomes change in reproductiuon in maize she demonstrated in the late 1920s that genes can shift to different locations by themselves. In the 1940s and 1950s she showed that genes are responsible for turning physical characteristics on and off, a process called transposition. Initially scientists were sceptical of her findings so she stopped publishing her data in 1953. By the 1960s and 1970s attitudes towards her work changed as more scientists made similar findings. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1983 for her work.1992-09-02T00:00:00+0000W.F. Zapisek, G.M. Cronin, B.D. Lyn-Cook, L.A. Poirier, 'The onset of oncogene hypomethylation in the livers of rats fed methyl-deficient, amino acid-defined diets', Carcinogenesis, 13/10 (1992), 1869-72.1992-10-01T00:00:00+0000Holley was an American biochemist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Medicine for explaining how the genetic code controls the synthesis of proteins. This stemmed from his research on RNA which he began in the late 1940s. By 1960 and he and collaborators showed that amino acids were assembled into proteins by transfer RNAs (tRNAs). In 1965 he managed to determine the composition of tRNA that incorporates the amino acid alanine into protein molecules.1993-02-11T00:00:00+0000Ochoa was a Spanish biochemist and molecular biologist whose research was devoted to understanding enzymes and their role in intermediary metabolism. He was one of the first scientists to show the pivotal role of high energy phosphates, like adenosine triphosphate, in the storage and release of energy. During this work he discovered the enzyme polynucleotide phosphorylase, which plays an important role in the synthesis of ribonucleic acid (RNA). This enzyme provided the foundation for the subsequent synthesis of artificial RNA and the breaking of the human genetic code. Ochoa was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1959 for his work on the biological synthesis of RNA. 1993-11-01T00:00:00+0000Temin was an American geneticist and virologist who shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on the interactions between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell. In 1969 he demonstrated that certain tumour viruses carry the ability to reverse the flow of information from RNA back to DNA using the enzyme reverse transcriptase. The same enzyme is now is known to be linked to the widespread spread of viral diseases like AIDs and Hepatitis B.1994-02-09T00:00:00+0000Lejeune was a French paediatrician and geneticist who made the first link between chromosome abnormalities and disease. In 1958 he found that children with Down syndrome had 47 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. Five years later he showed that a chromosome deletion on chromosome 5 was linked to Cri du chat, a rare genetic disorder that causes severe cognitive, speech and motor disabilities. He also discovered several other diseases related to chromosomal abnormalities in the early 1970s. LeJeune was a strong advocate for improving the lives of children with Down Syndrome and opposed abortion.1994-04-03T00:00:00+0000Pauling was an American chemist and biochemist who helped to pioneer quantum chemistry and mechanics. He combined methods from x-ray crystallography, molecular model building and quantum chemistry. Pauling was the first to find the alpha helix structure of proteins. In 1954 he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his 'research on the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex structures.' He also co-authored the first paper to suggest sickle-cell anaemia was a genetic disease, which introduced the concept of 'molecular disease'. Pauling was also awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 for his opposition to nuclear weapons. 1994-08-19T00:00:00+00001995-01-01T00:00:00+0000P.W. Laird, L. Jackson-Grusby, A. Fazeli, S. L. Dickinson, W. E. Jung, E. Li, R.A. Weinberg, R. Jaenisch, 'Suppression of intestinal neoplasia by DNA hypomethylation', Cell, 81 (1995),197-205, April 21, 1995,1995-04-21T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
10 Sep 1984First genetic fingerprint revealedJeffreysUniversity of LeicesterDNA sequencing, genetics, PCR
Jan 1985DNA methylation found to occur on specific DNA segments called CpG islandsBird, Taggart, Fromer, Miller, MacleodEdinburgh University, Kanematsu Laboratories, Columbia UniversityDNA methylation, Epigenetics
7 Mar 1985DNA fingerprinting principle laid out JeffreysUniversity of LeicesterDNA sequencing, genetics, PCR
17 May 19851st legal case resolved using DNA fingerprintingJeffreysUniversity of LeicesterDNA sequencing, genetics
20 Oct 1988Cloning of first mammalian enzyme (DNA methyltransferase, DNMT) that catalyses transfer of methyl group to DNA Bestor, Laudano, Mattaliano, IngramMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyDNA methylation, Epigenetics
9 Jun 1989George Wells Beadle diedBeadleCalifornia Institute of Technology, Stanford UniversityGenetics
Sep 1989DNA methylation suggested to inactivate tumour suppressor genesGreger, Passarge, Hopping, Messmer, HorsthemkeInstitute of Human GeneticsDNA methylation, Epigenetics, Oncology
Dec 1990BRCA1, a single gene on chromosome 17, shown to be responsible for many breast and ovarian cancersKing, Lee, Newman, Morrow, Anderson, HueyUniversity of California BerkeleyGenetics, DNA sequencing
6 Feb 1991Salvador E Luria diedLuriaMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
1 Mar 1992Method devised to isolate methylated cytosine residues in individual DNA strands providing avenue to undertake DNA methylation genomic sequencing  DNA methylation, Epigenetics,DNA sequencing
12 Jun 1992First transgenic mouse model created for studying link between DNA methylation and diseaseLi, Bestor, JaenischWhitehead Institute for Biomedical ResearchEpigenetics, Transgenic animals
2 Sep 1992Barbara McClintock diedMcClintockUniversity of MissouriGenetics
1 Oct 1992First experimental evidence showing links between diet and DNA methylation and its relationship with cancerZapisek, Cronin, Lyn-Cook, PoirierFDA, National Center for Toxicological ResearchDNA methylation, Epigenetics, Oncology
11 Feb 1993Robert W Holley diedHolleyCornell UniversityGenetics, RNA
1 Nov 1993Severo Ochoa diedOchoaNew York UniversityGenetics, DNA
9 Feb 1994Howard M Temin diedTeminUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Virology, Oncology
3 Apr 1994Jérôme-Jean-Louis-Marie Lejeune diedLejeuneParis School of MedicineGenetics
19 Aug 1994Linus C Pauling diedPaulingCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, DNA
1995Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Eric Wieschaus and Edward B Lewis jointly awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for illuminating the genetic control of embryonic developmentNusslein-Volhard, Wieschaus, Lewis Genetics, Embryology
21 Apr 1995First evidence published to demonstrate reduced DNA methylation contributes to formation of tumoursLaird, Jackson-Grusby, Fazeli, Dickinson, Jung, Li, Weinberg, JaenischMassachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General HospitalDNA methylation, Epigenetics, Oncology

10 Sep 1984

First genetic fingerprint revealed

Jan 1985

DNA methylation found to occur on specific DNA segments called CpG islands

7 Mar 1985

DNA fingerprinting principle laid out

17 May 1985

1st legal case resolved using DNA fingerprinting

20 Oct 1988

Cloning of first mammalian enzyme (DNA methyltransferase, DNMT) that catalyses transfer of methyl group to DNA

9 Jun 1989

George Wells Beadle died

Sep 1989

DNA methylation suggested to inactivate tumour suppressor genes

Dec 1990

BRCA1, a single gene on chromosome 17, shown to be responsible for many breast and ovarian cancers

6 Feb 1991

Salvador E Luria died

1 Mar 1992

Method devised to isolate methylated cytosine residues in individual DNA strands providing avenue to undertake DNA methylation genomic sequencing

12 Jun 1992

First transgenic mouse model created for studying link between DNA methylation and disease

2 Sep 1992

Barbara McClintock died

1 Oct 1992

First experimental evidence showing links between diet and DNA methylation and its relationship with cancer

11 Feb 1993

Robert W Holley died

1 Nov 1993

Severo Ochoa died

9 Feb 1994

Howard M Temin died

3 Apr 1994

Jérôme-Jean-Louis-Marie Lejeune died

19 Aug 1994

Linus C Pauling died

1995

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard, Eric Wieschaus and Edward B Lewis jointly awarded Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for illuminating the genetic control of embryonic development

21 Apr 1995

First evidence published to demonstrate reduced DNA methylation contributes to formation of tumours

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