Genetics: 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.

Lederberg was an American geneticist who helped discover the mechanism of genetic recombination in bacteria. This was based on some experiments he performed with Edward Tatum in 1946 which involved mixing two different strains of bacteria. Their experiments also demonstrated for the first time that bacteria reproduced sexually, rather than by cells splitting in two, thereby proving that bacterial genetic systems were similar to those of multicelluar organisms. Later on, in 1952, working with Norton Zinder, Lederberg found that certain bacteriophages (viruses that affect bacteria) could carry a bacterial gene from one bacterium to another. In 1958 Lederberg shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning genetic recombination and the organisation of the genetic material of bacteria.' 1925-05-23T00:00:00+0000Smithies was a geneticist and physical biochemist. He first made his mark in 1955 through his invention of starch gel electrophoresis, a technique used to study human protein variation. Later on, in the 1980s he developed a method for targeted gene replacement in mice, now known as gene targeting, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007. His method paved the way to the creation of thousands of lines of mice carrying desired genetic mutations. Such mice are now widely used to investigate the role of many different genes in human health and disease.1925-06-23T00:00:00+0000T.B. Johnson, R.D. Coghill, 'The discovery of 5-methyl-cytosine in tuberculinic acid, the nucleic acid of the Tubercle bacillus', Journal of the American Chemical Society, 47/11 (1925, 2838–44. 1925-11-01T00:00:00+0000Lejeune was a 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. 1926-06-13T00:00:00+0000Brenner is a geneticist and biologist who shared the 2002 Nobel Prize for Medicine for helping to discover how genes regulate tissue and organ development. Using the roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans as a model organism, Brenner demonstrated that triplets of nucleotides within RNA encode the individual amino acids of a protein, and signals when protein manufacture should stop. 1927-01-13T00:00:00+0000Nirenberg was a biochemist and geneticist who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Medicine for interpreting the genetic code and its function of protein synthesis. The Prize was given on the back of some experiments Nirenberg conducted in 1960 and 1961 which identified particular codons (3 chemical units of DNA) that specified each of the 20 amino acids that make up protein molecules. 1927-04-10T00:00:00+0000Kossel was a German biochemist who was a key pioneer in the field of genetics. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1910 for having isolated and described the five organic compounds present in nucleic acid. The compounds he isolated were adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine, and uracil. These are key to the formation of DNA and RNA. Kossel's work also laid the foundation for determining the composition of protein and its polypetides. 1927-07-05T00:00:00+0000Watson is a molecular biologist and geneticist who helped to determine the double-helix structure of DNA in 1953, for which he shared the 1962 Nobel Prize for Nobel Prize for Medicine. Watson also helped set up the Human Genome Project, which he headed up between 1990 to 1992. He left the project after campaigning against the NIH patenting the human genome. In 2007 he became the second person to publish his fully sequenced genome online. This he did to encourage the development of personalised medicine. 1928-04-06T00:00:00+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+0000Founded by Clarence Little, one of the leading researchers into genetic differences governing the rejection of foreign tissues. 1929-01-01T00:00:00+0000Ruddle helped pioneer human gene mapping and established many of the techniques and a framework for setting up the Human Genome Project. He generated, with Jon W. Gordon and George Scango the first successful transgenic mouse. This heralded the development of genetically modified animals as research models to investigate the function of genes and genetic cause of disease. Ruddle also discovered, with William McGinnis, the first human homeobox genes, important regulators of gene development. 1929-08-19T00:00:00+0000Griffin was a leading expert on viruses that cause cancer. She was the first woman appointed to Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith Hospital. In 1980 she completed the sequence of the poliovirus, the longest piece of eukaryotic DNA to be sequenced at that time. She devoted her life to understanding the Epstein-Barr virus, the cause of Burkitt's Lymphoma, a deadly form of cancer.1930-01-23T00:00:00+0000This was based on their experiments with the variegated colour pattern of maize kernels which showed that some genetic elements on the chromosome are capable of movement. They published their results in 'A Correlation of Cytological and Genetical Crossing-Over in Zea Mays',PNAS, 7/8 (1931), 492-97. 1931-08-01T00:00:00+0000Michael Smith shared the 1993 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for a technique that enables researchers to introduce specific mutations into genes and, thus, to the proteins that they encode. He developed the method, known as site-directed mutagenesis, in the 1970s, in collaboration with Fred Sanger and Clyde A Hutchinson III. The advantage of the technique was that it allowed comparisons to be made of different protein molecules and provided a means to deliberately alter a specific gene thereby making it possible to modify the characteristics of an organism. His work opened up a new chapter for studying and treating genetic diseases. Site-directed mutagenesis is a pivotal tool today in genetic and protein research and engineering and at the forefront of the development of monoclonal antibody drugs. 1932-04-26T00:00:00+0000Temin was a 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. 1934-12-10T00:00:00+0000Altman is a molecular biologist who shared the 1989 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for discovering the catalytic properties of RNA. This emerged out of some work Altman carried out between 1978 and 1983 on a bacterial enzyme called RNAs-P. His research helped transform the basic understanding of nuclear acids, which up to this moment had been understood to only carry genetic information. It also opened up the possibility of using genetic engineering to develop new forms of therapy against viral infections. 1939-05-07T00:00:00+0000Hartwell shared the 2001 Nobel Prize for Medicine for helping to discover protein molecules that regulate the cell cycle. This was based on his identification of more than 100 genes that control the growth and division of cells in baker's yeast in the late 1960s. He also discovered optional pauses in the cell cycle which allowed time for the repair of damaged DNA. This work has advanced the understanding of cancer and other diseases related to when the cell cycle breaks down. From 1997 to 2010 Hartwell served as the president and director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. 1939-10-30T00:00:00+0000The mice were developed by George Snell. 1940-01-01T00:00:00+0000MK Barrett, 'The influence of genetic constitution upon the induction of resistance to transplantable tumors', Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2 (1940), 387-93.1940-01-01T00:00:00+0000George Beadle and Edward Tatum, American geneticists, demonstrate that genes are responsible for the production of an enzyme. 1941-01-01T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
23 May 1925Joshua Lederberg was born in Montclair, NJ, USAJoshua LederbergUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Plasmids, Recombinant DNA
23 Jun 1925Oliver Smithies was born in Halifax, United KingdomSmithesUniversity of Washington, University of North CarolinaGenetics, Transgenic animals
Nov 1925T.B. Johnson and R.D. Coghill reported detecting a minor amount of methylated cytosine derivative as byproduct of hyrdrolysis of tuberculinic acid with sulfuric acid but other scientists struggled to replicate their results. Johnson, CoghillYale UniversityDNA methylation, Epigenetics
13 Jun 1926Jérôme-Jean-Louis-Marie Lejeune was born in Montrouge, FranceLejeuneParis School of MedicineGenetics
13 Jan 1927Sydney Brenner was born in Germiston, South AfricaBrennerLaboratory of Molecular BiologyGenetics
10 Apr 1927Marshall W Nirenberg was born in New York NY, USANirenbergNational Institutes of HealthGenetics, DNA
5 Jul 1927Albrecht Kossel diedKosselUniversity of HeidelbergGenetics
6 Apr 1928James D Watson was born in Chicago, IL, USAWatsonLaboratory of Molecular BiologyDNA, Genetics
7 Nov 1928Norton D Zinder was born New York City, USAZinderRockefeller UniversityGenetics
1929Jackson Memorial Laboratories established to develop inbred strains of mice to study the genetics of cancer and other diseases Jackson Memorial LaboratoroiesGenetics, Immunology, Oncology, Transgenic animals
19 Aug 1929Frank Ruddle was born in West New York, New JerseyRuddleYale UniversityGenetics, Transgenic, Cloning
23 Jan 1930Beverly Griffin was born in Delhi, Louisiana, USAGriffinImperial CollegeDNA sequencing, genetics, oncology, virology
Aug 1931Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton, her graduate student, provided first experimental proof that genes are positioned on chromosomesMcClintock, CreightonCornell UniversityGenetics, DNA
26 Apr 1932Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United KingdomSmithUniversity of British ColumbiaGene editing, Genetics, Monoclonal antibodies
10 Dec 1934Howard M Temin was born in Philadelphia, PA, USATeminUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Virology, Oncology
7 May 1939Sidney Altman was born in Montreal, CanadaAltmannLaboratory of Molecular BiologyRNA, genetics
30 Oct 1939Leland H Hartwell was born in Los Angeles, CA, USAHartwellFred Hutchinson Cancer Research CenterCell, Genetics
1940The first cogenic line of inbred mouse strains were developed, which helped determine the major histocompatibility complex, a set of genes that code for proteins found on the surfaces of cells which help the immune system recognise foreign substances. SnellJackson LaboratoryGenetics, Immunology
1940Inbred strains of mice bred at Jackson Memorial Laboratory showed that resistance to transplanted tumours were due to body's resistance to genetically different tissueBarrettJackson Memorial LaboratoroiesGenetics, Immunology, Oncology
1941Genes shown to regulate biochemical events within cellsBeadle, TatumStanford University Medical SchoolGenetics

23 May 1925

Joshua Lederberg was born in Montclair, NJ, USA

23 Jun 1925

Oliver Smithies was born in Halifax, United Kingdom

Nov 1925

T.B. Johnson and R.D. Coghill reported detecting a minor amount of methylated cytosine derivative as byproduct of hyrdrolysis of tuberculinic acid with sulfuric acid but other scientists struggled to replicate their results.

13 Jun 1926

Jérôme-Jean-Louis-Marie Lejeune was born in Montrouge, France

13 Jan 1927

Sydney Brenner was born in Germiston, South Africa

10 Apr 1927

Marshall W Nirenberg was born in New York NY, USA

5 Jul 1927

Albrecht Kossel died

6 Apr 1928

James D Watson was born in Chicago, IL, USA

7 Nov 1928

Norton D Zinder was born New York City, USA

1929

Jackson Memorial Laboratories established to develop inbred strains of mice to study the genetics of cancer and other diseases

19 Aug 1929

Frank Ruddle was born in West New York, New Jersey

23 Jan 1930

Beverly Griffin was born in Delhi, Louisiana, USA

Aug 1931

Barbara McClintock and Harriet Creighton, her graduate student, provided first experimental proof that genes are positioned on chromosomes

26 Apr 1932

Michael Smith was born in Blackpool, United Kingdom

10 Dec 1934

Howard M Temin was born in Philadelphia, PA, USA

7 May 1939

Sidney Altman was born in Montreal, Canada

30 Oct 1939

Leland H Hartwell was born in Los Angeles, CA, USA

1940

The first cogenic line of inbred mouse strains were developed, which helped determine the major histocompatibility complex, a set of genes that code for proteins found on the surfaces of cells which help the immune system recognise foreign substances.

1940

Inbred strains of mice bred at Jackson Memorial Laboratory showed that resistance to transplanted tumours were due to body's resistance to genetically different tissue

1941

Genes shown to regulate biochemical events within cells