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  • The Gene / Genealogy Forum IV: A Timeline of Genetic Research

    Edwin M. Knights Jr., M.D.

    Published Date : July 13, 2004

    An entire book could be written on following the trail of genetic progress, but as our mission is to concentrate on reviewing current developments in medical genetics, we'll try to call your attention to the major contributions that have occurred to date. Genealogists, who are probably more comfortable with tombstones than milestones, are invited to select subjects which are of particular interest and study them in more detail.

    • 1856-1863 Gregor Mendel studied peas, found evidence of genetic segregation.
    • 1859 Charles Darwin published On the Origin of the Species.
    • 1866 Gregor Mendel published his paper on the principles of heredity.
    • 1871 Friedrich Miescher isolated nuclein, now known as DNA.
    • 1882-1885 Walther Flemming and E. Strasburger found chromosomes within nuclei.
    • 1902 Archibald Garrod identified alkaptonuria as an example of an inborn error of metabolism. Walter Sutton and Theodor Boveri proposed the chromosome theory of heredity.
    • 1905 William Bateson coined the term "genetics;" W. Bateson and R. C. Punnett demonstrated linkage between genes.
    • 1909 W. Johannsen introduced the term "gene."
    • 1910 Edward M. East clarified the role of sexual reproduction in evolution. The same year, Thomas Hunt Morgan found the eye-color white, the first sex-linked gene, in fruit flies.
    • 1911 Thomas Hunt Morgan proposed that genetic linkage resulted from the genes involved being on the same chromosome.
    • 1913 Alfred Sturtevant created a genetic-linkage map.
    • 1924-1932 John B. S. Haldane published on his mathematical theory of natural and artificial selection.
    • 1927 Showed X-rays can cause mutations.
    • 1928 Frederick Griffith discovered "transforming principle," an agent causing genetic transformation in bacteria.
    • 1930 Ronald A. Fischer published a theory of evolution combining Mendelian inheritance and Darwinian selection. Sewall Wright published a genetic theory of natural selection and led the way towards the concept of genetic drift.
    • 1931 Harriet Creighton and Barbara McClintock demonstrated genetic recombination in maize resulting from a physical exchange of homologous chromosomes. This was repeated in fruit flies by Curt Stern.
    • 1941 George Beadle and Edward Tatum: Proposed one gene-one enzyme hypothesis, later modified to one gene-one polypeptide hypothesis.
    • 1944 Avery, MacLeod and McCarty found Griffith's transporting principle to be DNA.
    • 1946 Joshua Lederberg and Edward Tatum discovered conjugation in bacteria.
    • 1952 Alfred Hershey and Marsha Chase found DNA to be the genetic material in bacteriophage.
    • 1953 James Watson and Francis Crick proposed the double-helix model for DNA.
    • 1957 Heinz Fraenkel-Conrat and B. Singer found DNA to be the genetic material in tobacco mosaic virus.
    • 1958 Arthur Kornberg isolated DNA polymerase I from E. coli.
    • 1959 Severo Ochoa discovered the first RNA polymerase; Brenner, Jacob and Meselson found messenger RNA (mRNA).
    • 1965 Robert Holley worked out the first nucleotide sequence of a tRNA
    • 1966 Marshall Nirenberg, H. G. Khorana worked out the complete genetic code.
    • 1972 Paul Berg constructed the first molecule of recombinant DNA in vitro.
    • 1973 Herb Boyer and Stanley Cohen were first to use a plasmid for cloning DNA.
    • 1975 Edward M. Southern developed the Southern blot method for transferring DNA fragments.
    • 1977 Walter Gilbert and Frederick Sanger devised methodology for DNA sequencing.
    • 1986 Kary Mullis et al. devised the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method for amplification of selected DNA segments.
    • 1989 L.-C. Tsui, John Riordan, and the Francis Collins group: Identified and cloned the gene responsible for cystic fibrosis in humans.
    • 1990 James Watson & multiple scientists started the Human Genome Project.

    Thanks to the Human Genome Project, major DNA findings have been reported at a fast and furious pace. Many of these result from independent or private research involving loci known to be associated with diseases, with the hope of identifying better means of identifying, preventing or treating these diseases

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