Virology: 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.

An 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+0000The cloning, achieved by Beverly Griffin with Tomas Lindahl, was announced to a meeting at Cold Spring Harbor1979-01-01T00:00:00+0000The vaccine was developed by Stanley Plotkin, Hilary Koprowski and Tadeusz Wiktor at the Wistar Institute1980-01-01T00:00:00+0000A German biophysicist, Delbruck helped discover how viruses replicate their genetic structure. He showed that bacteria develop resistance against viruses as a result of random mutations and is not the result of adaptive changes. In 1969 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine on the back of this work. 1981-03-09T00:00:00+0000The work, led by Beverly Griffin, opened up the possibility of sequencing the virus. It was published in J R Arrand, L. Rymo, J E Walsh, E Bjorck, T Lindahl and B E Griffin, ‘Molecular cloning of the complete Epstein-Barr virus genome as a set of overlapping restriction endonuclease fragments’, Nucleic Acids Research, 9/13 (1981), 2999-2014.1981-07-10T00:00:00+0000The drug was originally synthesised by Howard Schaeffer and then worked on by Gertrude Elion and her team at the Wellcome Research Laboratories. Elion's group worked out the metabolism of the drug and how it coluld attack the herpes virus. Their work opened up further research on enzyme differences in normal and virus-infected cells that paved the way to the development of other antiviral drugs. 1982-03-29T00:00:00+0000Based on investigation of blood drawn from AIDS patients who developed Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer caused by a virus. The research was carried out by Susan Krown and Bijan Safai.1983-01-01T00:00:00+0000WHO, WHO Technical Report Series, No. 691 (Geneva: WHO, 1983).1983-01-01T00:00:00+0000M Durst, L Gissmann, H Ikenberg, H zur Hausen, 'A papillomavirus DNA from a cervical carcinoma and its prevalence in cancer biopsy samples from different geographic regions', Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 80 (1983), 3812-15.1983-06-01T00:00:00+0000An American microbiologist, Enders 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. 1985-09-08T00:00:00+0000The approval was given based on results from a clinical trial carried out by Harry Herr and Herbert Oettgen. The BCG vaccine stimulates an immune response that targets both the tuberculosis bacteria and bladder cancer cells. 1990-01-01T00:00:00+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+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+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. 1994-09-30T00:00:00+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.1994-11-03T00:00:00+0000Developed by William Wunner at the Wistar Institute1995-01-01T00:00:00+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. 1995-06-23T00:00:00+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.1997-03-29T00:00:00+0000Hershey was an American 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.' 1997-05-22T00:00:00+0000Fraenkel-Conrat was a German 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. 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. 1999-04-10T00:00:00+0000
Date Event People Places Sciences
16 Feb 1972Francis Peyton Rous diedRousRockefeller UniversityVirology, Oncology
1979First DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus cloned Griffin, LindahlImperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, University of GothenbergRecombinant DNA, Virology, Cloning
1980US licensed first rabies vaccine for human useKoprowski, Plotkin, WiktorWistar InstituteVaccine, Virology
9 Mar 1981Max Delbruck diedDelbruckCalifornia Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
10 Jul 1981Complete library of overlapping DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus clonedGriffin, Arrand, Walsh, Bjorck, RymoImperial Cancer Research Fund Laboratories, University of GothenbergRecombinant DNA, Oncology, Virology, Cloning
29 Mar 1982FDA approved acyclovir, the first successful antiviral drug, for treating the herpes virusElion, HowardWellcome Research LaboratoriesVirology
1983Link drawn between immune deficiency and cancer  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterImmunology, Oncology, Virology
1983WHO argued hepatitis B virus second only to tobacco as cause of cancer  Oncology, Virology
Jun 1983Harald Zur Hausen identifies the human papillomavirus as the causative agent of cervical cancerzur HausenUniversity of FreibergOncology, Virology
8 Sep 1985John F Enders diedEndersChildren's Hospital BostonVirology, Vaccine
1990US FDA approved BCG, a bacterial vaccine against tuberculosis, to treat early stage bladder cancer. It was the first FDA approved immunotherapyHerr, OettgenMemorial Sloan Kettering Cancer CenterImmunology, Cancer immunotherapy, Oncology, Virology
6 Feb 1991Salvador E Luria diedLuriaMassachusetts Institute of TechnologyGenetics, Virology
9 Feb 1994Howard M Temin diedTeminUniversity of WisconsinGenetics, Virology, Oncology
30 Sep 1994Andre Michel Lwoff diedLwoffPasteur InstituteMicrobiology, Virology
3 Nov 1994Ralph W G Wyckoff diedWyckoffUniversity of Michigan, University of ArizonaBacteriology, Virology, Vaccine
1995US licensed first wildlife rabies vaccine Wistar InstituteVaccine, Virology
23 Jun 1995Jonas Salk diedSalkUniversity of PittsburghVirology, Vaccine
29 Mar 1997Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie diedPirieRothamsted Experimental StationRNA, Virology
22 May 1997Alfred D Hershey diedHersheyCarnegie Institution of WashingtonGenetics, Virology
10 Apr 1999Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat diedFraenkel-Conrat University of California BerkeleyGenetics, Virology

16 Feb 1972

Francis Peyton Rous died


First DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus cloned


US licensed first rabies vaccine for human use

9 Mar 1981

Max Delbruck died

10 Jul 1981

Complete library of overlapping DNA fragments of Epstein Barr Virus cloned

29 Mar 1982

FDA approved acyclovir, the first successful antiviral drug, for treating the herpes virus


Link drawn between immune deficiency and cancer


WHO argued hepatitis B virus second only to tobacco as cause of cancer

Jun 1983

Harald Zur Hausen identifies the human papillomavirus as the causative agent of cervical cancer

8 Sep 1985

John F Enders died


US FDA approved BCG, a bacterial vaccine against tuberculosis, to treat early stage bladder cancer. It was the first FDA approved immunotherapy

6 Feb 1991

Salvador E Luria died

9 Feb 1994

Howard M Temin died

30 Sep 1994

Andre Michel Lwoff died

3 Nov 1994

Ralph W G Wyckoff died


US licensed first wildlife rabies vaccine

23 Jun 1995

Jonas Salk died

29 Mar 1997

Norman Wingate (Bill) Pirie died

22 May 1997

Alfred D Hershey died

10 Apr 1999

Heinz Ludwig Fraenkel-Conrat died