Some Highlights in the History of Biotechnology
6000 B.C. Sumerians and Babylonians use yeast 1881 Pasteur, the inventor of pasteurization,
to make beer. develops vaccines against bacteria
that cause cholera and anthrax in
4000 B.C. Egyptians bake leavened bread using chickens and opens new areas in pre-
yeast. ventive medicine. A few years later,
Pasteur develops the first rabies vac
500 B.C. The Chinese use moldy soybean curds cine, and the first human trials take
as an antibiotic to treat boils. place a year later.
100 A.D. Powdered chrysanthemum is used in 1920 Plant hybridization becomes wide
China as an insecticide. spread in the U.S. and improves agri
1673 Leeuwenhoek describes bacteria and
protozoa and suggests these microor- 1928 Alexander Fleming discovers
ganisms play a role in fermentation. penicillin, the first antibiotic.
1798 Edward Jenner vaccinates a child with Fredrick Griffiths observes that a rough type bac-
cowpox to protect him from the terium obtains a smooth appearance when an
deadly smallpox disease. unknown “transforming principle” from a smooth
type was present. The unknown substance is iden-
1865 Mendel, in his study of peas, discov- tified as DNA, 15 years later.1953 James Watson
ers that traits were transmitted from and Francis Crick reveal the three-dimensional
parents to progeny by discrete, inde- structure of DNA.
pendent units (later called genes). His
observations laid the groundwork for 1973 Cohen and Boyer perform the first
the field of genetics. successful recombinant DNA experi-
ment, and show that a foreign gene
1871 Ernst Hoppe-Seyler discovers inserted into bacteria is expressed by
invertase, an enzyme that splits the its new host.
disaccharide sucrose into glucose and
fructose. Invertase is still used today 1982 Humulin, Genentech, Inc.'s human
in making artificial sweeteners. insulin produced by genetically engi
neered bacteria, is the first biotech
drug to be approved by the Food and
The Vital Science exhibit is produced through the generosity of the Monsanto Fund.
1983 The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) 2000 Arabidopsis thaliana is the first-ever
technique is conceived. PCR, which completed sequence of a plant
uses heat and enzymes to make genome.
unlimited copies of genes and gene
fragments, later becomes a major tool 2001 The sequence of the human genome is
in biotech research and product published in Science and Nature,
development worldwide. making it possible for researchers all
over the world to begin developing
1989 The gene responsible for cystic fibrosis genetically based treatments for
is discovered. disease.
1990 The first federally approved gene 2002 Researchers sequence the DNA of
therapy treatment is performed rice, the main food source for two-
successfully on a 4-year-old girl thirds of the world's population. It is
suffering from an immune disorder. the first crop to have its genome
1997 Ian Wilmut reports cloning a sheep,
named Dolly, using DNA from adult 2003 The Human Genome Project is
sheep cells. completed, providing information on
the locations and sequence of human
1998 The first complete animal genome for genes on all 46 chromosomes
the C. elegans worm is sequenced.
HELPFUL WEBSITES ON THE HISTORY OF GENETICS
History of Genetics timeline
Genetic Science Learning Center at the University of Utah
50th Anniversary celebration in the United Kingdom
DNA from the Beginning
National Human Genome Research Institute
Journey to the Genome (New York Times article)
Celebrating 50 Years of DNA (Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory)
DNA Interactive (Dolan DNA Learning Center)