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Central Events in Biology


Source: Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray, pp 167-170

YearCountryEvent
-500GreeceAlcmaeon conducts dissections on animals, and perhaps on a human cadaver, for scientific purposes.
-350GreeceAristotle creates a classification system for animals and plants, founding biological taxonomy.
-320GreeceTheophrastus's Enquiry into Plants and Causes of Plants founds botany.
-310GreecePraxagoras discovers the difference between veins and arteries.
-280AlexandriaHerophilus's improvements in dissection and vivisection produce more detailed knowledge of the functions of internal organs, nerves, and the brain, founding scientific anatomy.
77ItalyThe 37 volumes of Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis summarizes the natural world as seen by the ancients.
180GreeceGalen dissects animals, demonstrating a variety of physiological processes and founding experimental physiology.
1543ItalyAndreas Vesalius writes De Humani Corporis Fabrica, a more scientifically exact anatomy text based on dissection that supplants Galen.
1553ItalyEarly attempts to describe blood circulation culminate in Realdo Colombo's discovery that blood passes from the lung into the pulmonary vein.
1555FrancePierre Belon identifies similarities in skeletons across animals (homologies), specifically birds and humans.
1583ItalyAndrea Cesalpino's De Plantis, the first scientific textbook on theoretical botany, introduces a major early system of plant classification.
1628EnglandWilliam Harvey's Exercitatio Anatomica de Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus describes the heart as a pump and accurately describes the nature of blood circulation.
1653SwedenOlof Rudbeck discovers the lymphatic system, demonstrating its existence in a dog.
1658NetherlandsJan Swammerdam discovers red corpuscles.
1660ItalyMarcello Malpighi discovers capillaries linking the arterial and venous circulation in the lungs.
1665EnglandRobert Hooke's Micrographia includes the first description of cells and coins the term cell.
1669EnglandRichard Lower describes the structure of the heart and its muscular properties, along with the observation that blood changes color in the lungs.
1676NetherlandsAntoni van Leeuwenhoek discovers microorganisms.
1677NetherlandsAntoni van Leeuwenhoek confirms the existence of sperm and speculates that they are the source of reproduction.
1682EnglandNehemiah Grew's Anatomy of Plants includes the discovery and description of plant sexuality.
1683NetherlandsAntoni van Leeuwenhoek discovers bacteria.
1686EnglandJohn Ray's Historia Plantarum presents the first modern plant classification and introduces the idea of species as a unit of taxonomy.
1727EnglandStephen Hales' Vegetable Statics describes the nature of sap flow and plant nourishment.
1733EnglandStephen Hales' Haemastaticks describes the first quantitative estimate of blood pressure and fundamental characteristics of blood circulation.
1735SwedenCarolus Linnaeus's Systema Naturae uses systematic principles for defining the genera and species of organisms. A later edition (1749) develops binomial nomenclature for classifying plants and animals.
1779NetherlandsJan Ingenhousz describes photosynthesis.
1800Germany
France
Karl Burdach, Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, and Gottfried Treviranus introduce the term biology.
1801FranceJean-Baptiste de Lamarck's Systême des Animaux sans Vertèbres founds modern invertebrate zoology.
1809FranceJean-Baptiste de Lamarck's Philosophie Zoologique introduces a clear statement of organic evolution but wrongly theorizes that acquired traits can be inherited.
1818FranceMarie Bichat's Traité des Membranes en General founds histology.
1827GermanyKarl von Baer discovers the mammalian ovum.
1828GermanyKarl von Baer's Über die Entwickelungsgeschichte der Thiere founds modern comparative embryology.
1831ScotlandRobert Brown discovers that the cell nucleus is a general feature of all plant cells.
1837FranceRené Dutrochet demonstrates that photosynthesis requires chlorophyll.
1838GermanyTheodor Schwann's Mikroskopische Untersuchungen and Hubert Schleiden's Beitroge zur Phytogenesis argue that cells are the fundamental organic units and develop in the same basic way, founding modern cell theory.
1858GermanyRudolph Virchow's Die Cellularpathologie founds cellular pathology.
1859EnglandCharles Darwin's On the Origin of Species introduces the theory of evolution through the mechanism of natural selection, independently developed by Alfred Wallace.
1861FrancePierre-Paul Broca introduces the theory of localization of the brain's speech center, with differing hemispheres containing the center for right- and left-handed individuals.
1865GermanyJulius von Sachs discovers that chlorophyll is the key compound that turns carbon dioxide and water into starch while releasing water.
1866AustriaJohann Mendel's "Experiments in Plant Hybridization" founds the study of genetics, though the paper goes unnoticed for decades.
1869EnglandFrancis Galton's Hereditary Genius applies Darwin's theory of evolution to man's mental inheritance, arguing that individual talents are genetically transmitted.
1882GermanyWalther Flemming delineates the sequence of nuclear division.
1883EnglandFrancis Galton introduces eugenics as a theory and a term.
1884GermanyHans Gram introduces bacterial staining, later an important tool in developing anti-bacterial agents.
1889Spain
Italy
Camillo Golgi and Santiago Ramon y Cajal describe the cellular structure of the brain and spinal cord, validating neuron theory.
1892Netherlands
Russia
Martinus Beijerinck and Dmitri Ivanovsky discover that a filtrable virus is the causative agent of tobacco mosaic infection, the first identification of a virus.
1900AustriaKarl Landsteiner discovers blood types.
1900Germany
Austria
Netherlands
Karl Correns, Erich Tschermak, and Hugo de Vries independently rediscover patterns of heredity found by Mendel and apply them to Darwin's theory of evolution.
1901NetherlandsHugo de Vries' Mutation Theory applies mutations to evolution (and acknowledges Mendel's priority).
1902EnglandWilliam Bayliss and Ernest Starling discover secretin, the first hormone, and its role as a chemical messenger.
1907USARoss Harrison achieves the first tissue culture, demonstrating the development of nerve fibres from neural tissue.
1909DenmarkWilhelm Johannsen introduces the word gene for the unit of inheritance and distinguishes between genotype and phenotype, backed with experimental evidence.
1910USAThomas Morgan discovers sex-linked characteristics.
1911USAThomas Morgan and Alfred Sturtevant prepare the first chromosome map, showing five sex-linked genes in the fruit fly.
1915England
France
Felix d'Hérelle and Frederick Twort independently discover bacteriophages.
1915USAThomas Morgan, Alfred Sturtevant, Hermann Muller, and Calvin Bridges propose that chromosomes contain genes that determine heredity.
1926USAThomas Morgan discovers that mutant characteristics in fruit flies are connected to paired Mendelian genes, which are joined to chromosomes.
1927USAHermann Muller discovers that X-rays produce mutations.
1929GermanyJohannes Berger invents electroencephalography, measuring brain waves in humans and opening up the study of neurophysiology.
1935USAWendell Stanley crystallizes the tobacco mosaic virus, demonstrating that crystallization is not a dividing line between life and non-life.
1937EnglandHans Krebs discovers the Krebs cycle of citric acids and its role in metabolism.
1944EnglandDorothy Hodgkin, Barbara Low, and C. W. Bunn discover the structure of penicillin.
1944USAOswald Avery, Colin MacLeod, and Maclyn McCarty discover that DNA is the genetic material in cells.
1948USAJohn Enders, Frederick Robbins, and Thomas Weller develop a method to culture viruses.