Virology: Timeline of key events

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Ivanovsky was a microbiologist who was one of the first scientists to discover viruses. He made the discovery based on a request to investigate a disease that was destroying tobacco crops in the Ukraine, which he carried out while a doctoral student. Initially he believed the destruction was due to mosaic disease, which was commonly linked to bacteria. He then noticed that sap filtered from the diseased plants could transfer the infection to healthy plants. With the microorganism proving invisible even under the highest magnification and able to permeate porcelain filters designed to trap bacteria, Ivanosky concluded the causal agent was an extremely tiny infectious agent. He first described his findings in an article in 1882 and then in a dissertation in 1902. 1864-11-09T00:00:00+0000d'Herelle was a microbiologist who co-discovered bacteriophages (phages), viruses that infect bacteria that are now major tools in biotechnology. He isolated the first phage from chicken faeces in 1919. Following this, he successfully treated chickens infected with typhus with the phage and in August 1919 cured a patient with dysentery using the same method. This laid the basis for the development of phage therapy. 1873-04-25T00:00:00+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+0000Goodpasture was a research scientist who developed the first method for culturing uncontaminated viruses in chicken embryos and fertilised chicken eggs. Before this viruses were grown in living tissues which could be contaminated by bacteria. Goodpasture's method laid the foundation for the mass production of vaccines for diseases like smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and chicken pox. He was also a key pioneer in the development of the mumps vaccine. 1886-10-17T00:00:00+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+0000Enders shared the 1954 Nobel Prize for helping to develop a technique to grow the poliomyeltitis virus in various types of tissue culture. This he achieved with colleagues Thomas Weller and Fredric Robbins in 1949. Their technique paved the way for Jonas Salk's development of a vaccine against polio. Enders is also renowned for having helped pioneer the first measles vaccine. 1897-02-10T00:00:00+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+0000Lwoff was a microbiologist. He shared the 1965 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning genetic control of enzyme and virus synthesis'. This was based on work he carried out in the early 1950s to understand lysogeny. This is the process by which some the genes of some viruses, bacteriophages (phage), get incorporated into the genetic material of a bacteria but remain latent until the formation of a new phage triggered by a particular event. He found that exposure to ultraviolet light was one factor that could spur on the development a new phage. Lwoff also discovered that vitamins help promote growth in microbes and can serve as co-enzymes. 1902-05-08T00:00:00+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+0000Gross is best known for having shown that viruses can cause cancer in mammals. He first demonstrated this in 1951 by injecting material from leukaemic mice into a strain of newborn mice known to be free of leukamia and isolating the virus. This virus he found could be passed on naturally to successive generations of mice to cause leukaemia. Gross subsequently found that radiation or a chemical could also activate a dormant virus in animals to cause leukaemia. Born to a prominent Jewish family, Gross was forced to flee to the United States following the Nazi invasion of his home country. 1904-09-11T00:00:00+0000A German biophysicist, Delbruck helped discover how viruses replicate their genetic structure, showing that bacterial resistance from viruses is due to random mutation and not the result of adaptive changes. This work showed that viruses reproduce in one step and not exponentially as happens in the case of cellular organisms. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on the back of this work. Blending biochemistry with genetics, Delbruck made substantial contributions to uncovering important aspects of genetics. 1906-09-04T00:00:00+0000Pirie was a virus physiologist and biochemist. He helped determine that the genetic component of viruses is RNA. Before this viruses were thought to be made up completely of proteins. During World War II he explored the possibility of extracting edible proteins from leaves, research that he carried on into the 1970s. His experiments were directed towards solving the food problem posed by the growing world population. He hoped to replace the inefficient method of feeding animals to secure protein for the diet.1907-07-01T00:00:00+0000Hershey was a bacteriologist and geneticist. He is best known for a series of experiments with bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) which helped to confirm that DNA, rather than proteins, carried genetic material. These he performed with Martha Chase in 1952. Hershey shared the 1969 Nobel Prize for Medicine for 'discoveries concerning the replication mechanism and the genetic structure of viruses.' 1908-12-04T00:00:00+0000Fraenkel-Conrat was a biochemist who discovered that RNA is pivotal to the genetic control of viral reproduction and that it is carried in the nucelic core of each virus. This indicated that the viral infectivity resides in the nucleic acid part of the virus. He made this finding in 1955 during experiments with the tobacco mosaic virus. By 1960 he had determined the complete sequence of the 159 amino acids in the virus. His work demonstrated that virus molecules that retain viral life can be reconstituted from its separate protein and RNA. 1910-07-29T00:00:00+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+0000Luria was a 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. 1912-08-13T00:00:00+0000Dulbecco was a virologist who in the 1950s helped to pioneer the growth of animal viruses in culture and work out how certain viruses cause tumours in the cells they infect. He and his colleagues demonstrated that the virus inserted DNA into the DNA of the host cell and this cell transformed into a cancer cell which reproduced the viral DNA along with its own thereby producing more cancer cell. This work not only aided better understanding of how viruses cause cancer, but also HIV. Dulbecco shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his 'discoveries concerning the interaction between tumour viruses and the genetic material of the cell.'1914-02-22T00:00:00+0000A medical researcher and virologist, Salk pioneered the first safe and effective polio vaccine. Introduced in 1955, Salk's vaccine helped curb one of the most frightening public health diseases in the world. Over 1,800,000 school children took part in the trial to test his vaccine. His vaccine used killed virus rather than weakened forms of the strain of polio used by Sabin to develop another vaccine against the disease. Salk refused to patent his vaccine and made his technique as widely available as possible. His polio vaccine is now on the World Health Organisation's List of Essential Medicine.1914-10-28T00:00:00+0000Weller was a physician and virologist whose development of tissue-culture methods, with John P. Enders and Frederick C. Robbins, in October 1949 opened up the means to study viral diseases. Their work paved the way to the development of the polio vaccine. The virus was grown in cultures of human foreskin and embryonic tissues. Weller shared the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1954 for the 'discovery of the ability of poliomyelitis viruses to grow in cultures of various types of tissue.'1915-06-15T00:00:00+0000Robbins was a paediatrician and virologist who made his name in 1941 by helping to develop a tissue culture technique to grow the polio virus, one of the most feared diseases at the time. The method involved the growth of the virus using a mixture of human embryonic skin and muscle tissue. It provided an important step towards the development of a vaccine against polio. The tissue culture technique also helped scientists discover new respiratory viruses and paved the way to culturing the measles virus to make a vaccine against it. Robbins shared the 1954 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work.1916-08-25T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
9 Nov 1864Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was born in Gdov, RussiaIvanovskyUniversity of St PetersburgVirology
25 Apr 1873Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canadad'HerellePasteur InstituteAntibacterial agents, Bacteriophages, Bacteriology, Virology, Phage therapy
5 Oct 1879Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USARousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
17 Oct 1886Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USAGoodpastureHarvard UniversityVirology, Vaccines
3 Sep 1888Thomas M Rivers was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, USARiversRockefeller Institute Virology, Bacteriology, Vaccines
10 Feb 1897John F Enders was born West Hartford, CT, USAEndersChildren's Hospital BostonVirology, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
9 Aug 1897Ralph W G Wyckoff was born in Geneva, NY, USAWyckoffRockefeller University, University of Michigan, University of ArizonaBacteriology, Virology, Vaccines
8 May 1902Andre Lwoff was born in Ainay-le-Chateau, FranceLwoffPasteur InstituteMicrobiology, Virology
16 Aug 1904Wendell M Stanley was born in Ridgeville IN, USAStanleyRockefeller InstituteBiochemistry, Virology, Vaccines
11 Sep 1904Ludwig Gross born in Krakow, PolandGrossBronx Veterans Administration Medical CentreOncology, Virology
4 Sep 1906Max Delbruck was born in Berlin, GermanyDelbruckCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
1 Jul 1907Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie was born in Eastbourne, UKPirie Rothamsted Experimental StationRNA, Virology
4 Dec 1908Alfred D Hershey was born in Owosso, MI, USAHersheyCarnegie Institution of WashingtonGenetics, Virology
29 Jul 1910Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat was born in Breslau, German Empire (now Wroclaw, Poland)Fraenkel-Conrat University of California BerkeleyGenetics, Virology
1911First cancer-causing virus discoveredRousRockefeller UniversityOncology, Virology
13 Aug 1912Salvador E Luria was born in Torino, ItalyLuriaMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
22 Feb 1914Renato Dulbecco was born in Catanzaro, ItalyDulbeccoImperial Cancer Research Fund LaboratoryGenetics, Virology, Oncology
28 Oct 1914Jonas Salk was born in New York City, USASalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccines, Infectious diseases
15 Jun 1915Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USAWellerChildren's Medical Center Boston, Harvard UniversityVirology
25 Aug 1916Frederick Chapman Robbins was born in Auburn AL, USARobbinsWestern Reserve UniversityVirology, Vaccines

9 Nov 1864

Dmitry Iosifovich Ivanovsky was born in Gdov, Russia

25 Apr 1873

Felix d'Herelle was born in Montreal, Canada

5 Oct 1879

Francis Peyton Rous was born in Baltimore MD, USA

17 Oct 1886

Ernest Goodpasture was born Clarksville, TN, USA

3 Sep 1888

Thomas M Rivers was born in Jonesboro, Georgia, USA

10 Feb 1897

John F Enders was born West Hartford, CT, USA

9 Aug 1897

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

8 May 1902

Andre Lwoff was born in Ainay-le-Chateau, France

16 Aug 1904

Wendell M Stanley was born in Ridgeville IN, USA

11 Sep 1904

Ludwig Gross born in Krakow, Poland

4 Sep 1906

Max Delbruck was born in Berlin, Germany

1 Jul 1907

Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie was born in Eastbourne, UK

4 Dec 1908

Alfred D Hershey was born in Owosso, MI, USA

29 Jul 1910

Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat was born in Breslau, German Empire (now Wroclaw, Poland)


First cancer-causing virus discovered

13 Aug 1912

Salvador E Luria was born in Torino, Italy

22 Feb 1914

Renato Dulbecco was born in Catanzaro, Italy

28 Oct 1914

Jonas Salk was born in New York City, USA

15 Jun 1915

Thomas H Weller was born in Ann Arbor MI, USA

25 Aug 1916

Frederick Chapman Robbins was born in Auburn AL, USA

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