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These pages represent a biased
choice of dates relevant to biology, obtained by compiling
a great many different sources, often using the original
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does not use Wikipedia which, by construction, relies on
a process akin to a vote, and changes over time in order
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knowledge rather than accurate knowledge. Care has
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provided whenever possible; however date records
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Please send comments and corrections
1920 is a turning point in the history of biology.
Until this date Europe had been at the centre of most
discoveries, with specific emphasis on chemistry in
Germany, evolution in the United Kingdom, zoology in
Italy, microbiology in France, and genetics in Russia. The
first World-War completely changed the picture: millions
of young men died in Great Britain, France and Germany,
and social unrest in Russia led to the creation of the
Soviet Empire. The finances of Europe were in extremely
poor condition. The pursuit of research had therefore hard
times in Europe, while the increased wealth in America led
to the flourishing of many laboratories. As early as this
date several prominent European scientists started to
emigrate to the USA. The trend was further stimulated by
the awful birth and development of nazism in Germany,
which culminated with the election of Hitler as a
chancellor in 1933, in a context where the soul of central
Europe was mainly of jewish descent. As a consequence, the
centre of the development of biology shifted to the USA,
triggered by first generation Americans, in a trend which
is still quite visible today. It seemed to us important,
in this context, to present not only positive facts about
biology, but also misleading trends, fakes and unethical
behaviour. It is important to note that, during this
period, a general theory of "degeneracy" both of
individuals and of races was often favored. This had an
impact not only in genetics or anthropology, but also in
statistics. In parallel, the development of Lyssenkism in
Soviet Union and its satellite countries destroyed the
local development of genetics, and delayed for decades the
advent of modern biology there. Science is created by
human beings, in precise socio-political contexts, and it
is far from the perfect image that some would like to
convey. This moment of history witnesses many fundamental
developments in the domains of catalysis, metabolism,
cytology, evolution. Most are very well known and cannot
be developed here. We have therefore chosen to place in
the limelight discoveries or events that are less well
known, but have had important positive or negative
contributions to the development of biology. Remembering
past work is extremely useful to go against the present
day arrogance of some, who reinvent the wheel while
claming that they have made great contributions to
1920 In line with this date as a turning point in
the history of Biology, Hans Winkler (1877 -
1945), professor of Botany at the University of Hamburg,
coins in his book Verbreitung und Ursache der
Parthenogenesis the term Genom, to indicate
the whole set of genes of an organism.
shows that a stimulating and inhibitory substance is
released from terminal branches of nerve fibers. This
discovery leads to the concept of nerve impulse
transmission across junctions by means of chemical
mediators, later named neurotransmitters.
1920 Henry Eliot Howard (1873 - 1940) an
obscure English bird watcher, convinces the scientific
world in his Territory in bird life that, among
other things, song is used by male birds to mark their
territory. He coins the word "territoriality" to describe
the behavior of male birds and began to investigate the
territorial behavior of mating birds. Territoriality is
typically manifested by aggression toward intruders.
describes the "organizer" effect of the amphibian dorsal
1921 Alfred F Hess (?-?) and Lester
J Unger (?-?) show that by simply exposing rachitic
children to sunlight, they are able to cure them of the
disease. By this time, rickets was still a severe problem
in Scotland and in parts of northern Europe. As a
consequence of this work, by the early 1920s two methods
could be used to cure rickets: cod-liver oil and exposure
to sunlight or ultraviolet light.
bactériophage : Son rôle dans l'immunité,
where he reports his observations and the techniques used
for the study of bacteriophages, and where he postulates
intracellular multiplication of the virus.
estimates that genes have a diameter of 20-70 microns. The
work of Harriet Ephrussi-Taylor (1918 - 1968),
analyzing gene inactivation with X-rays, will show later
that genes must be much smaller.
1921 John Newport Langley (1852 - 1925)
distinguishes functionally and gives a detailed
description of the autonomic nervous system.
1921 Loewi, and independently Henry
Dale (London, 1875 - 1968) isolate a
diffusible substance (named "Vagusstoff" by the
former) released by the vagus nerve.
Newton Richards (1876 - 1966) establishes in
great detail the nature of renal glomerular filtration and
of selective tubular reabsorption. His studies kept
confined to amphibian kidney until 1941.
Gowland Hopkins (Eastbourne, 1861 - 1947)
isolates a substance which he names glutathione, widely
distributed in the cells of plants and animals that are
rapidly multiplying. Among his other outstanding
contributions to science was his discovery of a method for
isolating tryptophan and for identifying its structure.
Grant Banting (Alliston, Canada 1891- killed
in an air disaster in Newfoundland, 1941), Charles
Herbert Best (West Pembroke, Maine, USA, 1899 -
1978) and John James Rickard Macleod (Cluny,
Scotland, 1876 - Aberdeen, 1935) discover and isolate
insulin and further study its physiological properties.
carries on the naming of vitamins using alphabetical
letters while showing that experimentallly that rickets is
caused by lack of a new natural factor present in food,
vitamin D. In this work he follows the observations of
British physician Edward
Mellanby. McCollum had decided to
pursue these studies further. From his own work on
isolating vitamin A, McCollum had found that
certain foods may contain more than one vitamin. Following
up on Mellanby's findings he tried by heating and
aerating the oil to destroy its vitamin A to discover what
else cod-liver oil might contain. As expected, the treated
oil no longer cured night blindness (due to lack of
vitamin A). But it did remain effective against rickets.
This is how vitamin D was discovered.
demonstrates that pupation in the gypsy moth (Lymantria
dispar) is conditioned by an agent in the body fluid
that originates in the brain. Animals, debrained before
the head critical period formed, stay as permanent larvae.
Erlanger (San Francisco, California, 1874 -
1965) and Herbert
Spencer Gasser (Platteville, Wisconsin, 1888 -
1963), having adapted the cathode-ray oscillograph for the
study of nerve action potentials, find that the rates of
conduction of mammalian nerve fibers correspond to the
thickness of their sheaths.
1922 Walter Garstang (1868 - 1949), in contrast
with the widely held view of Haeckel, recognizes
that ontogeny does not always recapitulate phylogeny and
later proposes that chordates evolved from organisms
resembling ascidians. This important work is still not
understood, as we still witness popular views of
recapitulation, not only in mass media papers but also in
1922 Building on a work he started in 1913, the
Norwegian psychologist Thorleif Schjelderup-Ebbe
(Kristiania, Norge 1894 - Oslo 1976) establishes social
dominance hierarchies (pecking orders) in domestic fowl.
Ruzicka (Vukovar, Croatia, 1887 - Zürich,
1976) recognizes isoprene as the building block of
carotenoids as well as many other natural products.
reports first measurements on the quantum efficiency of
photosynthesis. Warburg's manometric apparatus
becomes a standard tool for measuring metabolism in living
1923 Johannes Nicolaus Brønsted (Varde,
1879 - 1947) defines acids as substances which act as
proton sources, and bases as substances which act as
proton acceptors, regardless of the solvent.
1923 Independently, Thomas Lowry (1874 -
1936) formulates his theory of acids and bases.
uses the strength constants of acids and bases to study
the dissociation of other compounds.
de Hevesy (Budapest, 1885 - Freiburg im
Breisgau, 1966) initiates in Copenhagen research concerned
with isotopic separations. Together with Coster,
he discovers the element hafnium. He pioneers work in the
use of isotopic indicators both in inorganic and life
sciences. Later, in Freiburg, he was to be involved in the
first clinical use of isotopes.
Keilin (1887 - 1963) rediscovers histohematins
(cytochromes) and demonstrates changes in their oxidation
state during respiratory activity.
1923 RO Herzog (?-?) and W Jancke (?-?)
apply their improvement of new X-ray crystallography
techniques in an article: On the Structure of the
Cellulose and Silk Fibre.
1923 Thunberg proposes that water is the
reducing agent in photosynthesis in an oxidation-reduction
reaction in which carbon dioxide is reduced and water is
oxidized. He also studies the oxidative degradation of
foodstuffs in animals.
1923 Lemuel Roscoe Cleveland (1892 - ?)
describes the mutualistic relationship between termites
and their intestinal zooflagellates. He further analyses
the effects of oxygenation and starvation on the symbiosis
between the termite Termopsis, and its intestinal
flagellate protists: Symbiosis between Termites and Their
Intestinal Protozoa. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1923 9:
1924 Hermann Staudinger (Worms, 1881 - 1965), who
proposed in 1920 that colloids were often large polymers
proposes to name them Makromoleküle
(macromolecules) and insists on the facts that their atoms
are linked by "normal valence" (i.e. in our present terms,
1924 Feulgen publishes his “Plasmalreaktion”,
which he had carried out together with his assistant Kurt
Voit (1895 - 1978) allowing one to visualize DNA in
the nucleus of cells. All nuclei (animal and plant) stain
violet after hydrolysis and staining with Schiff
's reagent, the material is then squashed in acetocarmine
1924 Hans Berger (Neuses, near Coburg, Thuringia
1873 - Jena, 1941) devises equipment to make the first
encephalograms (measurements of brain waves) of human
1924 Aleksandr Ivanovich Oparin (Moscow,
1894 - 1980) publishes a small book on chemical evolution
where he advances a heterotroph theory of the origin of
1924 Philipp Stoehr (?-?) obtains the development
of an embryonic heart by self-differentiation of trunk
Bernstein (Halle, 1878 - Zürich, 1956), a
mathematician known for the Bernstein-Cantor-Schröder
theorem on the equivalence of sets (1897) uses statistics
to predict the way blood groups are inherited (inheritance
of multiple alleles at one locus).
Houssay (Buenos Aires, 1887 - 1971)
investigates the role of the hypophysis in the regulation
of carbohydrate metabolism and in diabetes.
(The) Svedberg (Fleräng, Sweden 1884 - 1971)
invents the ultracentrifuge and uses it to determine the
sedimentation rates of proteins. This was to play a
considerable role in the establishment of the modern view
of what are macromolecules (creation of Molecular
1924-1928 Hans Karl August Simon von
Euler-Chelpin (Augsburg, Germany, 1873 - 1964)
develops his studies on vitamin A and carotene, using
marked vitamin A.
1925 Joseph Barcroft (Glen, Newry, 1872 - 1947)
while studying the role of hemoglobin in blood,
demonstrates its storage and release by organs such as the
1925 Fritz Baltzer (Berne, 1884 - 1974), a former
student of Boveri, discovers that sex
determination in some animals is not chromosomal and that
juveniles can be sexually ambipotent.
1925 Hans Molisch (Brünn (Brno), 1856 - 1937),
Czechoslovakian botanist in Vienna, obtains the production
of oxygen by illuminating preparations of dried leaves.
1925 Cyrus Hartwell Fiske (1890 - 1978)
and Yellagaprada SubbaRow (1896 - 1948) establish
determination of phosphorus in living organisms.
1925 George Edward Briggs (1893 - 1985) and John
Sanderson Haldane (1892 - 1964) make
important refinements in the theory of enzyme steady-state
1925 Alfred James Lotka (Lemberg, Osterreich, 1880
- New York, 1949) publishes his Elements of Physical
Biology that were to play a considerable role in
population genetics (and in mathematics as well).
Richards Minot (Boston, USA, 1885 - 1950) and
William Parry Murphy (Stoughton, Wisconsin, 1892 -
1987) discover that feeding raw liver had a pronounced
effect in the treatment of pernicious anemia. This
discovery led to the eventual isolation of vitamin B12 and
the identification of yet another vitamin deficiency
1925 Evert Gorter (Utrecht 1881 - Leiden 1954) and
François Grendel (?-?), two Dutch scientists,
extract membrane lipids from a known number of red blood
cells and calculate the corresponding surface area. Then
they create a monolayer of lipids on water: the surface
area was two times that of the surface area of red blood
cells. They conclude that membranes consist of two layers
of lipids. This is the beginning of the bilayer theory of
1925 William Rowan (1891 - 1957) after emigrating
to Canada in 1919, demonstrates the effect of photoperiod
on on birds' physiological readiness for mating and
Dart (Toowong, Brisbane, Australia, 1893 -
1988) discovers the "Taung
Baby" fossil, now classified as Australopithecus
africanus. The find was especially significant
because it included a rough cast of the individual's
1925-1928 G Koller (?-?) and Earle B Perkins
(?-?), by means of blood transfusions, obtain evidence of
the presence of hormone-like substances regulating the
activity of chromatophores in crustaceans.
elucidates the structure of mononucleotides and suggests
that they are the building blocks of nucleic acids. He
also isolates the carbohydrate portion of nucleic acids
and distinguishes deoxyribose from ribose. He thinks that
nucleic acids are complexes of a tetrad made of the four
nucleotides. This erroneous view was to delay
significantly the discovery of the structure of DNA.
1926 Samuel Ottmar Mast (1870 - 1947) publishes
the "tail contraction model" to explain the mechanism of
amoeboid movement. This study led to the formulation of
many useful concepts for understanding other protoplasmic
movements, such as cytokinesis.
1926 Paul De Kruif (1890 - 1971) trained as a
bacteriologist at the University of Michigan, and working
on gas gangrene during the first World War in France,
publishes a book popularising microbiology, Microbe
Hunters, that had a considerable influence on the
interest for the field. It was also the demonstration that
there was a bridge between "The two cultures" (CP Snow)
that were supposed to separate Science from Literature and
1926 Otto Loewi and Ernst Navratil
(1902–1979) identify Vagusstoff as acetylcholine.
1926 Based on his own scientific observations and
on the study of collected plants, Vavilov
works out a theory of the origin of cultivated plants,
according to which the cultivated flora appeared and was
developed within relatively few geographic centers located
mostly in mountainous regions. Vavilov later
helped to establish seven centers for collecting seeds in
the world. Vavilov's expeditions were targeted at
verification of this theory. Later on, numerous Soviet and
foreign expeditions were organized according to Vavilov's
plans. Vavilov's seed collection, an important
genetic resource for the whole world, is housed today in
St. Petersburg, Russia, and is in danger of degenerating.
Subsequently, as a geneticist opposing the views of Lyssenko
(whom he had initially accepted in his laboratory),
Vavilov was harshly persecuted during Stalin's
dictature until his untimely death.
1926 Kenjiró Fujii (1866 -?) in a report of the
Japanese Association for the Advancement of Science
describes the coiled structure of the chromosomes in the
nucleus. At certain stages of the cell cycle, two
filaments are seen to be coiled around each other.
1926 Fritz Warmolt Went (1903 - 1990)
extracts the substance present in coleoptile tips
(protective sheath enclosing the shoot tip and embryonic
leaves of grasses) by placing them on agar for an hour,
then discarding the tips and using the agar to produce
growth in the decapitated coleoptiles. This is the first
growth factor to be isolated.
Hill (Bristol, 1886 - 1977) uses a
thermocouple to measure the heat produced by stimulated
nerve fibers. He shows that oxygen is consumed in the
recovery phase of muscle contraction and is not directly
required for contraction. Further work by Hill led
others to the conception of the phenomenon of
cooperativity in multisubunit proteins (Hill's
coefficient), after his studies of the binding of oxygen
1926 (Lodewijk) Louis Bolk (Overschie,
Netherlands, 1866 - Amsterdam, 1930) publishes La
récapitulation ontogénétique comme phénomène harmonique.
This work transmits the Haeckelian tradition of a kinship
between ontogeny and phylogeny.
Sumner (Canton, Massachusetts, 1887 - 1955)
crystallizes the enzyme urease and proves it to be a
protein. This can be considered as one of the last
experimental demonstration of the continuity between
physics and biology putting together the world of
"colloids" and the world of "crystals".
1925 Gilbert Smithson Adair (1896 - 1979)
a series of papers that the molecular mass of
hemoglobin is 67,000. He begins to describe the reversible
binding of oxygen to the protein (Adair's equation), in a
way that was the basis for the theory of allostery, forty
1926 Barend Coenraad Petrus Jansen (1884 – 1962)
and Willem Frederik Donath (1889 – 1957) isolate
crystalline aneurin (thiamin, vitamin B1) from rice
polishings, but their work does not identify the sulfur
atom in the molecule.
1927 Emil Bozler (1901- 1995) demonstrates that
the nerve net of cnidarians is made up of separate cells
connected by synaptic junctions. He also studies
electrical aspects of muscle contraction and the role of
calcium and magnesium in contraction and relaxation.
1927 Calvin Bridges (1889 - 1938), a geneticist,
precursor of the discoverers of homeogenes, discovers in Drosophila
the mutation bithoraxoïd (bxd) that modifies the aspect of
the first abdominal segment of the adult insect.
Reinhold Windaus (Berlin, 1876 - 1959)
analyzes bile acids and identifies ergosterol as the
parent substance of vitamin D.
1927 Erik Anderson Stensiö (1891 - 1984)
reconstructs a fossil Cephalapsid (an ostracoderm) and
suggests that it is a vertebrate prototype. He conceives
the lepidomorial theory as means of explaining the
evolution of development of the vertebrate dermal and oral
skeleton. The lepidomorial theory is a pattern-based
theory that provides a homological framework in comparing
dental papillae and their products, and it provides an
explanatory mechanism for such relationships a posteriori
1927 George Ellett Coghill (Beaucoup,
Illinois, 1872 - Gainesville, Florida, 1941) begins to
investigate the innate behavioral patterns of lower
vertebrates, including salamanders as well as early
embryonic somatic movements in birds and in mammals other
1927 In Pavlov's school, Anatolii Georgievich
Ivanov-Smolensky (1895 - Moscow 1982) publishes On
the methods of examining the conditioned food reflexes
in children and in mental disorders, a classic
in psycho-physiology, Brain 50: 280.
1927 Georgii Dmitriyevich Karpchenko
(Velsk, 1899 -1941) obtains a tetraploid hybrid between
the radish Raphanus sativus, and the cabbage, Brassica
oleracea, thus creating the new species "Raphanobrassica".
This is a first work in Soviet Union demonstrating that
plants can behave in a way purposedly oriented by Man.
1927 Artificial transmutation of genes is
reported by Lewis John Stadler (1896 -
1954) in maize and Hermann
Muller (New York, 1890 - 1967) in Drosophila
by means of X-rays.
1927 Improving methods discovered earlier,
Charles Robert Harington (1897 - 1972) synthesizes
thyroxine at a high yield.
1927 Landsteiner discovers new blood groups, the M
and N groups.
1927 Theophilus Shickel Painter (Salem, Viriginia,
1889 - Fort Stockton, Texas, 1969) finds a chromosome
deficiency in mice which, along with genetic evidence,
provides the first case of localizing a specific gene to a
particular chromosome in mammals. Painter is
however better known for his work on the genetics of Drosophila
and its relation to chromosome structure.
1927-1928 Philip Eggleton (?-?) and Grace Palmer
Eggleton (?-?), followed by Fiske and SubbaRow
recognize that phosphate is liberated from an organic
compound during rabbitt muscle contraction. They name
"phosphagen" this reservoir of energy. Phosphagen was
later identified as phosphocreatine.
1927-1928 Hideyo Noguchi (1876 - Accra,
Gold Coast, 1928) goes to Accra, Ghana, to work on yellow
fever, a disease which he wrongly believes is caused by a
spirochete and dies there from the disease he was keen to
Heymans (Ghent, 1892-1968) investigates the
role of the carotid and aortic reflexes in respiratory
1927-1930 The Institut
de Biologie Physico-Chimique is created in
Paris, funded by Edmond de Rothschild. Its first director
is a physicist, the discoverer of an experimental view of
atoms, Jean Perrin. This Institute aims at
putting together Physics, Chemistry and Biology, to follow
the ideas of Claude
Bernard. The structure of this institute
decided of the plan for the conception of the French
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).
1928 Emil Heitz (1892 - 1965), fixing and staining
plant material, visualises, using the microscope, in moss
nuclei (the liverwort Pellia epiphylla
(Jungermaniidae)) chromosomal regions that do not undergo
postmitotic decondensation, which he names
heterochromatin. His contributions further extends to the
study of chloroplasts and polytene chromosomes.
1928 Franz Volhard (München, 1872 - Frankfurt am
Main, 1950) suggests that a substance in the kidney may be
responsible for some cases of hypertension.
1928 Josias Braun-Blanquet (1884 - 1980) publishes
an influential book on plant physiology, Pflanzensoziologie
(English translation: 1932).
Griffith (London, ?- 1941), trying to establish a
vaccine against pneumonia, discovers a "transforming
principle" in pneumococci (Streptococcus pneumoniae)
that is capable of transforming nonvirulent (rough)
strains into virulent (smooth) strains.
von Euler-Chelpin (Augsburg, 1873 - Stockholm,
1964), already famous for his work on catalysis and
fermentation, prepares pure carotene and demonstrates its
high vitamin A activity.
1928 Gustav Heinrich Ralph von Koenigswald (Berlin,
1902 - 1982) passes his thesis dissertation "Das
Rotliegende der Weidener Bucht" (the permian redbeds
in the Weidener Bucht, an area located in the northeast of
Bavaria) and soon starts as a young scientist to work with
the Netherlands Geological Survey in Java, where important
discoveries on the origin of Man were to happen.
1928 Albert von Szent-Györgyi (Budapest, Hungary,
1893 - 1986) pioneering the study of biological oxidation
mechanisms, isolates from adrenals a substance that he
later found to be identical with vitamin C. He names the
product, now known as ascorbic acid, hexuronic acid.
Ascorbic acid is not hexuronic acid but a reduced
1928 Went develops a method of quantifying the
plant growth substance he has isolated two years earlier.
His results suggest that the curvatures of stems are
proportional to the amount of growth substance in the
agar. This test is called the "avena curvature test".
Fleming (Lochfield, Scotland, 1881 - London,
1955) while working on the influenza virus, discovers
accidentally the antibacterial action of a diffusible
molecule produced by a microscopic fungus, penicillin.
Fifteen years were necessary to put this discovery into
and Windaus elucidate the structure of the
1928-1933 Warburg establishes the iron-porphyrin
structure of the respiratory co-enzyme.
Piaget (Neuchâtel, Swizerland, 1896 - Geneva,
1980), initially trained as a specialist of the molluscs
of the Geneva lake publishes La représentation du
monde chez l'enfant (The Child's Conception of the
World), a book that was to be very influential in the way
we perceive learning in humans.
1929 Karl Lohmann (1898-1978), following previous
work of Fiske and SubbaRow isolates ATP
from muscle extracts. Within two years he shows that it
contains two moles of phosphoric acid, one mole of adenine
and one mole of ribose-5-phosphate.
1929 Trofim Denissovitch
Lyssenko (1898-1976), revives the old way of
accelerating germination of plants by submitting seeds to
cold, advocated by Ivan Vladimirovitch
Mitchourine (Verchina, near Dolgoïe, gouv. of
Riazan, 1855 — Kozlov, today Mitchourinsk, 1935)
(vernalisation). He incorrectly interprets this true
epigenetic phenomenon of adaptation as a genetic
phenomenon, and starts a crusade againts the
"Mendelist-Morganist" genetics, that was to culminate with
Stalin's support with the emprisonment and death of most
of the genetics school in Soviet Union. He further
develops the Mitchourinian theory of the "mentor" (graft
or addition of strong plants to a bunch of weaker ones) to
improve the progeny by passing over the "good" properties
of the plants. It should be noticed that this fantastic
view has been held by influential thinkers such as Piaget,
in the domain of psychology, and is somewhat still
influential today in certain circles.
Johann Butenandt (1903 - 1995) and Edward
Adelbert Doisy (Hume, Illinois, 1893 - 1986)
isolate the first sex hormone, estrone, from urine.
1929 Walther Vogt (1888 - 1941) uses vital dyes to
construct fate maps of newt Triturus embryos.
Placing small vital dye marks on the surface of amphibian
embryos at various stages of development he analyzes the
movements and fates of various regions of the embryo.
and Sterling Emerson (1900-1988) show that much of
the extraordinarily complex genetics of the evening
primrose (Oenothera) can be interpreted as due to
translocations of groups of genes, following a model
elaborated by John Belling (Aldershot, UK 1866 -
1933) for the jimsonweed, Datura, with the
technique he had developed, the iron-acetocarmine staining
technique, which facilitated detailed study of chromosomal
structures. As a consequence of their work it becomes
apparent that many of the "mutations" that De Vries
had found in this organism were not genuine mutations but
segregation products from the complex translocations of
chromosome arms in Oenothera.
1929 William Bosworth Castle (1897 - 1990) shows
that the substance responsible for preventing pernicious
anemia derives from the combination of an "intrinsic
factor" in the gastric juice and an "extrinsic factor" in
the diet. This antianemic factor then stores in the liver.
Extrinsic factor was later proven to be vitamin B 12.
1929 Jacques Forestier (1890 - 1978) introduces
gold therapy in rheumatoid arthritis: L'aurothérapie
dans les rhumatismes chroniques.
1930 Einar Lundsgaard (1899 - 1968) proves that
muscles can contract in the presence of iodoacetate, which
prevents lactic acid formation.
1930 Cornelis van Niel (1897 - 1985) while
studying anaerobic bacteria that use hydrogen sulfide
(H2S) instead of H2O in photosynthesis, finds that the
bacteria generate sulfur (S8) as a byproduct. Following
the earlier hypothesis of Thunberg, this result
leads him to propose that photosynthesis consists of two
separate reactions. The first is oxidation of a compound
with the general formula H2A (for example, H2S or H2O)
with the concomitant generation of protons (H+) and
electrons (e–). This reaction requires light to proceed.
The second reaction uses the protons and electrons
generated by the first reaction to reduce CO2 and produce
carbohydrates and water. This provides a rationale for the
mechanism of photosynthesis.
Theiler (Pretoria, 1899 - 1972), by
demonstrating that mice were susceptible to the
intracerebral inoculation of the yellow fever agent,
establishes the agent of yellow fever as a virus contrary
to the opinion generally held around him (in particular by
his former colleague, Hideyo Noguchi).
1930 Stadler devises and perfects methods for
determining spontaneous mutations rates in maize, finding
that different genes mutate at widely different rates.
1930 Gavin Rylands De Beer (London, 1899 -
Alfriston, Sussex, 1972) publishes Embryology and
evolution where he analyzes the relationships
between ontogeny and phylogeny.
1930 Sewall Wright (1889 - 1988), best known for
his "shifting balance theory", studies the mathematics of
evolutionary changes in living organisms populations.
1930 Publication of Ronald
Fisher's (London, 1890 - Adelaide, Australia,
1962) The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection.
While being extremely influential in the domain of
statistics (and an excellent mathematician in the domain),
Fisher was to expose also a very dark side, because
of his extremely biased emphasis on eugenics (with
particularly horrible consequences during this period of
the XXth century).
Howard Northrop (1891 - 1987) crystallizes
pepsin and trypsin and proves that they are proteins.
Edsall (Philadelphia, 1902 - 2002) and Alexandeer
von Muralt (?-?) isolate myosin from muscle. Later,
Edsall had a strong influence on the development of
biochemistry, and was an important editor of The Journal
of Biological Chemistry.
A Engelhardt (1894 - 1984) discovers that
phosphorylation of ATP is coupled to respiration, a
process now known as "oxidative phosphorylation".
1931 Warren Lewis and his wife Margaret characterize
the process of entry of compounds and particles in cells,
known as pinocytosis (from the Greek "peinw"
1931 Harriett B Creighton (1909 - 2004) and Barbara
McClintock (1902 - 1992) demonstrate both
cytological chromatid exchange and exchange of genetic
loci as a result of the same meiotic event, a cytological
proof for crossing-over in maize. A similar demonstration
is made by Curt Stern (Hamburg, 1902 - 1981) in Drosophila.
Gödel (Brünn, 1906 - Princeton, 1978)
establishes the principle of indecidability in
arithmetics. This remarkable work demonstrates that, even
in the science of whole numbers (integers) mathematics is
not a tautology. For this work Gödel uses the concept of
coding, distinguishing between the concept and its label
(as a word in a given language, or, as any type of string
of symbols). This is at the
root of the powerful alphabetic metaphor that
underlies molecular biology and the science of genetics of
1931 Carl Linus
Pauling (1901 - 1994) publishes The Nature
of the Chemical Bond, which describes the basis for
understanding how macromolecules can be stable at ordinary
1931 Wright presents the first unified picture of
evolution in terms of Mendelism illustrating the relations
between selection pressure, mutation rates, inbreeding,
isolation and the like.
1931 Warder Clyde Allee (1885 - 1955), a Chicago
ecologist, publishes his book, Animal Aggregations: A
Study in General Sociology. At the time, following
the classification of Sciences according to Auguste
Comte, many thought that research on animal
communities would be relevant to human sociology. This was
also an important step in the discussion of commensalism,
symbiosis, parasitism and the like. Allee
introduces the subject of cooperation in a 'nominalist'
way, devoid of moral content, or substantial premisses
about the nature of society. According to him, cooperation
starts as a mere 'aggregation' of individuals, of protozoa
for instance, with the result of enjoying better chances
of survival for each. Contrary to Allee, his
Chicago colleagues, notably his former teacher Charles
M Child (1869 - 1954), held a view in which
cooperation was the result of competition, which in turn
was constrained by patterns of dominance. Dominance itself
was rooted in sexual dominance of the male over the
females. Many debates and theory in game theory and in the
study of propagation of behaviour in communities rest on
work such as that one. It is not indifferent that this
debate started in the early thirties, at a time when the
idea of struggle for life, competition and degeneracy was
beginning to spread throughout the world, culminating in
the Nazist view of mankind.
1931 Louis SB Leakey (1903 - 1972) in The
Stone Age Cultures of Kenya Colony, begins to dig
for decades in the Olduvai Gorge in East Africa. His first
major discovery was the jaw of a pre human creature called
1931 At the Karolinska Institute Carl Naeslund
(Uppsala ?-?) tries to persuade medical doctors and
dentists of the importance of cleaning teeth, and studies
the consequences of using a variety of toothpastes. This
is an important step in the improvement of world-wide
1931 Fritz Kögl (?-?), AJ Hagen-Smit
(?-?) and Hanni Erxleben (?-?) in Holland isolate
from human urine and characterize chemically the compound
discovered by Fritz Went in 1926 as the compound
auxentriolic acid (auxin A) and name it Auxin
(after the greek word auxein,
"increase", "enhance", "grow"). Independently, Kenneth
Vivian Thimann (Ashford, England, 1904 -
Haverford, Pennsylvania, 1997) purify the substance. Later
Kögl isolates other compounds from urine which were
similar in structure and function to auxin A, one of which
was indole-3 acetic acid (IAA). In 1954 a committee of
plant physiologists was set up to characterize the group
auxins. Compounds are generally considered auxins if they
are synthesized by the plant and are substances which
share similar activity to IAA (the first auxin to be
isolated from plants).
Needham (London, 1900 - 1995), best known for
his monumental Science and Civilisation in China
(Cambridge 1954, seventeen large volumes published, and
still being continued), publishes his three-volume Chemical
Embryology with an extensive introduction about the
history of embryology - his first contribution to the
history of science.
1931 Antonio Caetano de Abreu Freire Egas
Moniz (Avanca, Portugal, 1874 - 1955)
publishes his Diagnostic des tumeurs cérébrales et
épreuve de l'encéphalographie artérielle
(Diagnostics of cerebral tumours and application of
arterial encephalography), in Paris. He later develops
brain frontal resection in the treatment of certain
psychiatric diseases. This "lobotomy" becomes quite
fashionable in the world at a time when the idea of
"degeneracy" of individuals and races begins to catch
1931 On the basis of radioactivity and geological
data, the age of the Earth is shown to be at least two
1931-1932 Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (Sarcenat,
1881 - New York, 1955) joins the group sponsored by André
Citroën La croisière jaune, to explore the Silk
Road from the Western World to China and discover
prehistorical remains of humans in China.
Tsvett's publication on chromotography, the
Austrian biochemist Richard
Kuhn (Vienna, Österreich, 1900 - 1967) asks
his student Edgar Lederer (1908 - 1988) to adapt
the method and refine it for the separation of
carotenoids. He discovers a third carotene isomer which is
called g-carotene. Lederer's
adaptation of Tsvett's first achievement is
particularly successful and they manage to isolate and
purify a large number of carotenoids, amongst which
astaxanthin (astakoV, lobster
in Greek), the pigment that makes lobsters red when they
1932 Further working on the role of
phosphorylation of small molecules in the management of
energy, Lohmann discovers the ATP-phosphocreatine
phosphate transfer reaction.
1932 Mietsche (?-?) and Klarer (?-?) ,
from I. G. Farben Industrie, in Germany, synthesize
sulfamido-chrysoïdine, a product that was to be the source
of the first antibiotics.
1932 Warburg and Walter Christian (?-?)
isolate a yellow conjugated flavoprotein from yeast: the
"yellow enzyme" of respiration.
1932 Theodosius Dobzhansky (Nemirov, Russia,
1900 - 1975), Theophilus Painter, and Hermann
Muller show that while the linear order of genes is
the same for genetic and cytological maps, physical
distances and crossover map distances do not coincide.
Dobzhansky is best known for his aphorism: "Nothing
in biology makes sense except in the light of
evolution." Muller shows that without sex
mutations will accumulate until they drive extinction
1932 Haldane publishes his influential book, The
Causes of Evolution and an essay on The Origin
of Life, where he assumes a heterotroph origin of
1932 Further developing his statistical studies
of populations, Wright stresses the importance of
"genetic drift" due to chance in small populations.
1932 Richard Benedikt Goldschmidt (1878
– 1958) studies adaptation in geographical races of the
Gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar). With another
species, the Peppered Moth (Biston betularia) he
discusses that in industrial areas, melanic forms thrive,
while otherwise the moth is white, freckled with black
spots. This work was later disputed by special interests
groups, but its validity has been established again in
2012. Cook, L. M., B. S. Grant, I. J. Saccheri and J.
Mallet. 2012. Selective bird predation on the peppered
moth: the last experiment of Michael Majerus. Biology
Letters online,:doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2011.1136.
1932 The physiologist Albrecht Bethe (1872
- 1954) introduces the concept of ectohormones,
demonstrated in insects, where they may function in trail
making, sex attraction, development control, and the like.
These substances are known as pheromones. An organism
secretes these substances out of the body, where they
affect the physiology or behavior of another individual of
the same species.
1932 A Danish scientific expedition discovers
ichthyostegid fossils in Greenland. These are the oldest
known fossils that can be classified as amphibians.
1932 George Edward Lewis (?-?) finds the
first Ramapithecus brevirostris (punjabicus),
the earliest known hominid fossil, in the Siwalik Hills of
1932 The physicist Niels
Bohr (Copenhagen, 1885 - Copenhagen, 1962)
begins to be interested in biology and gives a lecture on
"Light and Life" at the International Congress of
Light Therapy, where he suggests that similar
complementarities as those between wave and particle in
atom physics might exist in living organisms and may
explain the nature of life. While of a completely
different nature, this idea of "complementarity" was to
have a very important role in the discovery of DNA's
structure. The paper is published in 1933: Light and
Life, Nature 131: 457-459.
1933 Max Knoll (Wiesbaden, 1897 - 1969) and Ernst
August Friedrich Ruska (Heidelberg, Germany,
1906 - Berlin, 1988) build the first electron microscope,
that extends considerably the range of observation of
1933 Nicolai Vladimirovitch Timofeeff-Ressovsky
(Moscow, 1900 - 1981) measures the viability of strains of
Drosophila funebris of different geographical
origin. Together with Muller, who just came from
America to Berlin, they try to prove that not only X-rays
but also ultraviolet light can induce mutations. Based on
their data the question emerges: "how can the physical
nature of light damage chromosomes and genes?" In this
context, the physicist and student of Niels Bohr,
Delbrück (Berlin, 1906 - 1981), enters
genetics in Timofeeff-Ressovsky's Institute
in Berlin (this Institut is now named after his name: the
"Max Delbrück Centrum").
1933 Etienne Camille André (?-?)
demonstrates that soap hydrolysis plays a negative role on
teeth and gingivae. This starts research to modify the
composition of toothpaste and its action on the microbial
flora in the mouth, creating a new domain of microbiology.
Krebs (Hildesheim, Germany, 1900 - 1981) and
Kurt Henseleit (1907 - 1973) establish the first
elements of what is now known as the "urea cycle" where
synthesis and degradation of the guanidinium,
nitrogen-rich group of arginine is explained.
1933 Paul Runar Collander (Finland,
1894 - 1973) and H Bärlund (?-?) make quantitative
measurements of cell membrane permeability chemically the
amount of a given substance that appeared in the cell sap
of characean cells a certain time after the cells were
placed in a given concentration of the substance to
nonelectrolytes of varying molecular size and lipid
solubility. Their results contributes enormously to our
understanding of membrane structure.
Wald (New York, 1906 - 1997) discovers vitamin
A in the retina.
1933 H Hashimoto (?-?) describes the chromosomal
control of sex determination in the silkworm, Bombyx
mori (56 chromosomes) and shows that chromosome W is
the sex determining chromosome in the insect.
1933 Gustav Georg Embden (1874 - 1933) and
Otto Meyerhof (Hannover, 1884 - 1951) establish the
nature of crucial intermediates in the chemical pathway of
glycolysis and fermentation. The combination of the work
of these authors with that of Lohmann establishes
associations between the uptake of phosphate during the
breakdown of carbohydrates to lactic acid and the
splitting of ATP. They find that ATP is resynthesized in
subsequent reactions. This is the first suggestion that
the lactic acid cycle participates in the formation of
ATP. Despite his work of immense interest Meyerhof had
subsequently to leave Nazi Germany, and from 1938 to 1940
he was Director of Research at the Institut
de Biologie Physico-Chimique in Paris. In
1940, when the Germans invaded France he had to leave
Paris for Toulouse, then for Philadelphia in the United
1933 Harry Goldblatt (1891 - 1977) reports that
human semen and seminal vesicles contain a factor that
reduces blood pressure and regulates smooth muscle
activity. This Is the first report that identifies the
activity of prostaglandins and prelude to the discovery of
1933 Johannes Friedrich Karl Holtfreter
(1901 - 1992) working with amphibian embryos and using a
sandwich assay, produces in urodele exogastrulae in which
neural tissue does not form, an important tool for
understanding embryonic induction.
1933 Heitz and Bauer discover that the
giant salivary gland chromosomes of the Diptera are
polytene, which allows the banding patterns to be mapped
in chromosomes. This facilitates extensive studies on
precise gene localization and chromosome structure
iscovered that the giant chromosomes
1933-1935 Spemann, Needham (London, 1900
- 1995), Conrad Hal Waddington (1905 -
1975), and others shows that cell-free extracts from the
organizer region retains powers of evocation. Chemical
studies led to the belief that the evocator was probably a
1933 Rebecca Craighill Lancefield (1895 -
1981) describes a method of producing streptococcal
antigens and sera for use in precipitin tests and suggests
that this approach can be used epidemiologically to
identify the probable origin of a given strain.
1934 Jacques Duclaux publishes L'analyse
chimique des fonctions vitales, a book still full of
the vitalism of colloid chemistry.
1934 Ladislaus Laszlo Marton (1901 - 1979)
publishes La microscopie électronique des objects
biologiques (Electron microscopy of biological
objects) in which he is the first to examine biological
specimens with the electron
microscope, which achieves magnifications of
1934 Philippe L'Héritier (1906 - 1990) and
Georges Teissier (1900 - 1972), with their the
"population cage", demonstrate that a deleterious gene
disappears from populations of Drosophila melanogaster
maintained in population cages for many generations,
providing a first example of natural selection in a
1934 Robert Russell Bensley (1867–1956)
and Normand Louis Hoerr (1902 - 1958)
develop techniques to disassemble cells and isolate
cellular components. They isolate and analyze
1934 William A DeMonbreun (?-?) describes the
dimorphic nature of Histoplasma capsulatum after
being surprised by the growth of a mold from patient
tissues displaying an infection caused by a yeast. He
later finds that dogs are natural hosts of this dimorphic
fungus. The Dog as a Natural Host of Histoplasma
capsulatum: Case of Histoplasmosis in This Animal ,
Am. J. Trop. Med. 19: 565 (1939).
1934 von Euler notes that Goldblatt has
just reported that human semen contains a factor that
reduces blood pressure and regulates smooth muscle. von
Euler trained with Dale in England had, just
a few years earlier, isolated the bioactive peptide
compound P. During systematic studies, von Euler
find that extracts of prostate and vesicular glands
contain potent blood-pressure-lowering factors from sheep
and man that stimulated smooth muscles and were different
from compound P. Importantly, von Euler discovers
that the activities are of lipidic character and coins the
Hugo Theodor Theorell (Linköping,
Sweden, 1903 - 1982) demonstrates by using electrophoresis
that the lipid-soluble activity (prostaglandins) behave as
Dam (Copenhagen, 1895 - Copenhagen, 1976) and
Doisy isolate and identifie vitamin K.
1935 Arthur G Tansley (1871 - 1955) coins the
word "ecosystem" to define a unit that covers all
organisms of a given area as well as their relationship to
the inorganic environment. .
1935 Jakub Oskarovich Parnas (Mokriany,
then Austro-Hungarian Empire, 1884 - murdered during
stalinian purges, 1949) describes for the first time the
reactions of glycogen phosphorylation and phosphorylation
in glycolysis (at the Institute of Medical Chemistry).
1935 On the
initiative of Ludwik Rajchman (1881 - 1965), a
world conference on nutrition is convened that establishes
for the first time in history a minimal nutritional level
necessary for maintaining health in the individual.
shows experimentally the selective value of protective
coloration in fishes.
1935 Sven Otto Hörstadius (1898 - 1996) shows
the existence of a double gradient of "animalization" and
"vegetalization" in the echinoderm egg.
1935 The work of Gerhard
Paul Domagk (Lagow, Germany, 1895 - 1964)
establishes the positive role of sulfamido-chrysoïdine in
animal and human streptococcus infections. One of the
first patients to be treated with Protonsil was Domagk’s
daughter who had a streptococcal infection that was
unresponsive to other treatments. When she was near death,
she was injected with large quantities of Protonsil and
she made a dramatic recovery.
1935 Jacques Trefouël (Le Raincy, France, 1897 -
Paris, 1977), Federico Nitti (Ischia, Italia, 1903
- 1947) and Daniel Bovet (Genève, 1907 - Roma,
1992), working in the laboratory of Ernest François
Fourneau (Biarritz, 1872 - Paris, 1949), at
the Institut Pasteur, conceptualize that in the complex
molecule of sulfamido-chrysoïdine with its azoic double
bond, only paraminobenzo-sulfonamide
(paraminophenylsulfamide) is the active principle. This
triggers industrial synthesis of sulfamides and their use
as antibacterial agents. The sulfamides Septoplix,
Neo-coccyl, Lysococcine, initially experimented in Germany
(Prontosil), then in France (Rubiazol) are found highly
efficient against meningitis caused by streptococci or
pneumococci as well as in the case of blennorragy and
1935 Percy W Zimmerman (?-?) and Frank
Wilcoxon (1882 - 1965) discover several chemical
growth substances which cause initiation of roots and
other responses in plants. Wilcoxon is well known for his
contributions to statistical tests.
Stanley (Ridgeville, Indiana, 1904 - 1971)
succeeds in crystallizing tobacco mosaic virus, using the
standard techniques for purification of proteins
(isoelectric precipitation and salting out with ammonium
sulfate) and shows it remains infectious. That a virus
could be crystallized caused sensation as it was both a
biological and a philosophical breakthrough. However, Stanley
does not recognize that the infectious material is nucleic
acid and not protein. The fact that he was nevertheless
awarded a Nobel Prize (in 1946) shows how strong was the
fact that the role of DNA was overlooked for a long time.
Karrer (Moscow, 1889 - Zürich, 1971) and Richard
Kuhn (Vienna, 1900 - 1967) identify lactoflavin
(riboflavin, or vitamin B2) as the prosthetic group of
Warburg and Walter Christian's yellow
1935 Szent-Györgyi establishes the involvement
of dicarboxylic acids in respiration.
Ephrussi (1901 - 1979) comes to the California
Institute of Technology to work on developmental aspects
of genetics did pioneer work on Drosophila eye
transplants in 1934 to study genetics with George Wells
Beadle (Wahoo, Nebraska, 1903 - 1989), who visited
Paris for six months in 1935 to work with him at the Institut
de Biologie physico-chimique. Together they began
the study of the development of eye pigment in Drosophila,
which was the first step of the "one gene - one enzyme"
1935 Robert Runnels Williams (Nellore,
India, 1886 - 1965) establishes a correct formula for the
structure of vitamin B1 it was named thiamine.
1935 Wald suggests that vitamin A is a precursor
of visual purple.
1935 Curtis E Meyer (?-?) and William
Cumming Rose (1887 – 1985) discover threonine, the
last essential amino-acid to have been recognized.
1935 Hugh Davson (1909 - 1996) and James Frederic
Danielli (1911 - 1984) proposes a "protein-lipid
sandwich" model for the structure of cell membranes.
1935 Rudolf Schoenheimer (Berlin, 1898 -
committed suicide, 1941) and David Rittenberg (1906
- 1970) first uses isotopes (nitrogen-15 and deuterium) as
tracers in the study of intermediate metabolism of
carbohydrates and lipids. Schoenheimer had to
emigrate to the USA because of the Nazi domination in
Germany, in 1933.
1935 Delbrück and Timofeeff-Ressovsky,
together with the physicist Karl G Zimmer (1911 -
1988) publish in an article "Über die Natur der
Genmutation and der Genstruktur" (On the nature of
gene-mutation and gene-structure), their quantum
mechanics-oriented results on the stability of genes.
Their "Theory of hitting probabilities" shows that the
amount of induced mutations must be directly proportional
to the applied doses of rays. This allows them to estimate
the size of genes, that are supposed to encompass not much
more than about 1000 atoms. This, even though it was an
underestimation, was a pretty good approximation of real
gene sizes. formulates a "target theory" of gene mutation
which says that a mutation can be induces if a single
electron is detaches by high energy radiation.
Kendall (South Norwalk, Connecticut, 1886 -
Showalter Hench (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
1896 - 1965) and, independently, Tadeusz Reichstein
(Wloclawek, Poland, 1897 - Basel, Swizerland, 1996)
discover cortisone. Kendall had participated in
the discovery of thyroxin, the active principle of the
thyroid gland, but he is also known for his
crystallization of glutathione.
1935-1936 Warburg and von Euler isolate
pyrimidine nucleotides and determine their structure and
1935-1936 Kurt G Stern (? - ?) observes spectral
shifts in catalase as the reaction it catalyzes proceeds,
thus demonstrating spectroscopically the existence of an
intermediate enzyme-substrate complex for the enzyme
catalase, confirming the Michaelis-Menten
1936-1937 John Desmond Bernal (Nenagh,
Ireland, 1901 - London, 1971) with Isadore Fankuchen
(1904 - 1964) obtains X-ray pictures from the crystals of
the 280 nm tobacco mosaic virus particles showing that the
"individual rods of tobacco mosaic virus have a regular
inner structure of such a nature that each rod could be
considered to be a crystal". This was perhaps the first
hint of the idea of "aperiodic crystal" that was so
successful in the What is life? of Schrödinger
later. Bernal demonstrates that isolated
preparations of tobacco mosaic virus contain phosphorus as
a component of a phospho-ribonucleic acid. They also
isolate ribonucleic acids. This challenges the claim by Stanley
that the Tobacco Mosaic Virus is composed only of protein
1936 Harland Goff Wood (Delavan,
Minnesota, 1907 - 1991) and Chester Hamlin
Werkman (Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1893 - Ames, Iowa,
1962) discover that plant cells kept in the dark are able
to build up larger organic molecules from carbon dioxide.
They also show that CO2 is consumed by Propionibacterium
arabinosum during the fermentation of glycerol. This
is the first report of carbon dioxide fixation by a
1936 David Keilin (Moscow, 1887 - Cambridge, 1963)
parasitologist and entomologist, isolates cytochrome c
(about 80% pure), that he had identified in 1925, and
reconstitutes electron transport in particulate heart
1936 Dorothy Wrinch (Rosario, Argentina, 1895 -
1972) proposes a theory of heredity based on the chaining
of the amino-acid residues of proteins, linked by peptide
bonds and folded into a cyclic structure. She embarks in
model building to substantiate her "cyclol" theory.
1936 John Zachary Young (1907 - 1997) discovers
that the squid Loligo contains some enormous nerve
cells, including an axon up to 1 mm in diameter and 10 cm
long. This allowed scientists to performed studies on the
nervous system that, until them, had not been possible.
1936 Louis Rapkine (Tchichenitch, Russia, 1904 -
Paris, 1948), who is working at the Institut
de Biologie Physico-chimique in Paris on sulfhydryl-
groups, creates the Comité français pour l'accueil et
l'organisation du travail des savants étrangers to
help jewish and antifascist scientists to escape from the
Nazis and the fascists.
1936 Moniz publishes his Tentatives
opératoires dans le traitement de certaines psychoses
(Tentative methods in the treatment of certain psychoses)
in Paris, followed by La leucotomie préfrontale. A
further"demonstration" of the efficacy of lobotomy,
Traitement chirurgical de certaines psychoses
(Prefrontal leucotomy. Surgical treatment of certain
psychoses) is publihed in Torino one year later. This way
to consider psychoses is well in line with the general
trend of medicine and eugenic practices that are spreading
during this dark period of human history.
1936 Needham publishes Order and
life, where among other interesting ideas he
proposes that the cytoskeleton is a “contractile net”.
1936 Alonzo Church (Washington, DC, 1903 - Hudson,
Ohio, 1995) publishes a landmark paper on lambda calculus
that shows the existence of an "undecidable problem" in
the investigation of recursivity, a property that was
later to be found in the way heredity is organised in
1936 Robert Williams and Kline synthesizes
1936 Milislav Demerec (1895 - 1966) and Margaret
E Hoover (?-?) point out the correspondence between
giant salivary gland chromosome bands and gene maps. Demerec
begins to think about a nomenclature for the description
1936 Publication of Dobzhansky's
Genetics and the Origin of Species.
1936 George S Avery (?-?) and Paul R Burkholder
(?-?) study the effects of auxins in plant metabolism
(publication of Growth hormones in plants).
1936 Alexander Oparin publishes The Origins of
Life on Earth, in which he describes hypothetical
conditions which would have been necessary for life to
first come into existence on early Earth. Life must have
come from simple organic molecules present in the early
earth's atmosphere. This includes an atmosphere of
methane, ammonia, and other gases, much volcanic activity,
lightening, and warm soil and water temperatures. This
hypothesis was later tested by an experiment done by Stanley
Miller with Harold Urey in 1953.
Turing (London, 1912 - Wilmslow, Cheshire,
1954) invents his Universal Machine, meant to illustrate
the concept of algorithm in concrete uneversal terms. This
approach is fundamental in understanding emergent
properties of whole numbers, as well as in the concrete
construction of computers.
1937 Lohmann and P Schuster isolate the
prosthetic group from co-carboxylase and shows that it is
the diphosphate of thiamin (vitamin B1).
Krebs (1900 - 1981) and WA Johnson
(?-?) postulate the mechanism of what is now known as the
Krebs cycle, under the name citric acid cycle. Proper
names for the cyclic oxidation of substrates in the
mitochondria matrix are tricarboxylic acid cycle or citric
1937 Karl Ferdinand Herzfeld (Wien, 1892 -
Washington, 1978) who came to America in 1926, publishes
articles on a tentative theory of photosynthesis (with J.
Franck: An attempted theory of photosynthesis. J.
Chem. Phys. 5:237-251).
1937 Thimann suggests that a given concentration
of auxin might produce inhibitory effects in one tissue
and stimulation in another, different tissues being
characterizes by a series of overlapping optimal
1937 Albert Francis Blakeslee (Geneseo,
New York, 1874 - 1954) and Amos G Avery (?-?) use
colchicine to produce artificial polyploidy in plant
1937 Marton publishes the first electron
micrographs of bacteria.
1937 Edouard Chatton (1883 - 1947), who mostly
worked on protozoa, summarises his past work and separates
living organisms into eucaryotes (those with a
well formed nucleus; eu: good,
karuon, kernel, nucleus) and procaryotes
(those with no nucleus and the genetic material directly
in the cytoplasm of the cell; pro:
preceding, or primitive) in a description of the food
chain. The spelling used most frequently in English
("karyote") appeared later on. "Les protistologues
s'accordent, aujourd'hui, à considérer les Flagellés
autotrophes comme les plus primitifs des Protozoaires à
noyau vrai, des Eucaryotes (ensemble qui embrasse aussi
les Végétaux et les Métazoaires), parce qu'ils sont les
seuls pouvoir faire la synthèse totale de leur
protoplasme à partir du milieu minéral. Les organismes
hétérotrophes sont donc subordonnés à leur existence,
ainsi qu'à celle des Procaryotes chimiotrophes et
autotrophes (Bactéries nitrifiantes et sulfureuses,
Cyanophycées)." Apparently, he was using the terms
well before that time (as early as 1925) but did not care
to emphasize the importance of the associated concept.
1937 Dobzhansky links evolution and genetic
mutations in Genetics and the Origin of Species.
1937 Collander finds that, in general, the more
lipophilic a substance is, the greater is its ability to
permeate the membrane. However some small hydrophilic
molecules, like water also permeate quickly. Collander
concludes that while the membrane is made primarily of
lipid, it is really a mosaic, and must contain pores to
account for the high permeability of some small polar
1937 René Leriche (Roanne, 1879 - 1955), basing
his work on experiments of trauma during the first World
War, publishes La chirurgie de la douleur, a book
on the importance of physical pain. This work was
translated in many languages and makes the basis of new
Tiselius (Stockholm, 1902 - 1971) develops the
technique of electrophoresis.
1937 George William Marshall Findlay (1893 -
1952) and MacCullum discover interferon.
1937 Tracy Morton Sonneborn (Baltimore,
Maryland, 1905 - Bloomington, Indiana, 1981) lectures at
Goucher College on the existence of different mating types
1937 Frederick Charles Bawden (1908 - 1972)
establishes that the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) contains
shows how formation of ATP is couples to the
dehydrogenation of glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate.
1937-1939 Delbrück moves to Morgan's
laboratory at Caltech where he gets frustrated by the
complex esoteric terminology of Drosophila
genetics. With Emory L Ellis (?-?) he learns about
bacteriophages and some fascinating techniques of
microbiology. The ease in which one could make viruses
visible on a bacterial lawn made experiments possible with
an object (phage T4) that for Delbrück was the
"atom of biology". With Ellis he establishes the
concept of the one-step viral growth cycle for a
bacteriophage active against E. coli, published as
The growth of bacteriophage. J.Gen.Physiol. 22:
Cori (Prague, 1896 - 1984) and Gerty
Radnitz-Cori (Prague, 1896 - 1957) demonstrate
the reversible action of glycogen phosphorylase.
1937-1941 Herman Moritz Kalckar
(Copenhagen, 1908 - Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1991), and Vladimir
Aleksandrovitch Belitser (Riazan 1906 - 1988)
and Elena T Tsybakova (?-?) independently carry
out the first quantitative studies of oxidative
phosphorylation. Kalckar demonstrates that
cell-free extracts of kidney cortex catalyze oxidative
phosphorylation - that is, the formation of ATP in
reactions strictly dependent on the reduction of oxygen
and independent of glycolysis.
1938 Johannes van Overbeek (?-?) reports that
certain nongeotropic mutants in maize do not show the
usual inequality of auxin distribution.
1938 Michaelis and MP Schubert (?-?)
propose that free radicals are involved in biochemical
reactions: The theory of two-step oxidation involving
free radicals. Chem. Rev. 1938, 22, 437-470.
1938 Burrhus Frederick Skinner (Susquehanna,
Pennsylvania, 1904 - 1990) invents the "Skinner
box", and uses it to investigate operant
conditioning in rats (analysis of the couple stimulus /
response). With a purely mechanistic view of the mind, he
creates a school of psychology known as Behaviorism.
Louis A Brachet (Etterbeek, Belgique, 1909 - 1998)
shows that ribonucleic acids are accumulates in regions of
high morphogenetic activity.
1938 Alfred Fessard (1900 - 1982), Wilhelm
Feldberg (1900 - 1993), and David Nachmansohn
(1899 - 1983) establish that the transmission at the
electromotor synapse of the electric eel, Torpedo
marmorata, is cholinergic and results in the
electric discharge of the eel.
1938 Albert Hofmann (Baden, Switzerland, 1906 -
2008) synthesizes the ergotamine molecule, lysergic acid
1938 Together with Irving
Langmuir (New York, 1881 - 1957), Winch
perfects the cage struture, cyclol theory of proteins up
to a point where she tries to reconcile her hypothesis
with X-ray data on insulin. The theory is rapidly
discredited, in particular by Pauling.
1938 Field tests of Max Theiler’s vaccine
against yellow fever prove successful. The vaccine is
based on a mouse passaged virus.
1938 Franz Moewus (1908 - 1959) develops at the
Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut für Medizinische Forschung in
Heidelberg his work on the alga Chlamydomonas
eugametos, developing an elaborate biochemical and
genetic interpretation demonstrating that mutants could be
isolated and characterized, as well as suggesting
cytoplasmic heredity. This work was rapidly clouded by
irreproducibility. Speaking of these faked results Haldane
reports: "a chap in Berlin who counted different types
of algae (or so he said), got such a magnificent
agreement between observed and theoretical results, that
if every member of the human race had repeated his work
once a month for 1012 years, they might
expect as good a fit on one occasion (though not with
great confidence). So
Moewus certainly hadn't done any second order faking.
" This work is a famous illustration of an unfortunate
practice that plagues studies in biology, especially
through publications of faked work in famous journals.
Taking on Moewus in 1938, Kuhn
was one of the earliest scientists to anticipate the
future of molecular genetics. The result was a great
personal embarrassment to Kuhn.
1938 Robert (Robin) Hill (Leamington Spa,
Warwickshire, 1899 - 1991) finds that cell-free
suspensions of chloroplasts evolve oxygen when illuminated
in the presence of ferric salts.
1938 Alexander Evseevich Braunstein
(Kharkov, 1902 - Moscow, 1986) and MG Kritzman
(?-?), in Soviet Union, discover a new type of reversible
enzyme-catalyzed reaction while studying glutamic acid
metabolism and transamination reactions.
1938 William Thomas Astbury
(Stoke-on-Trent, 1898 - Leeds, 1961) and FO Bell
(?-?) use X-ray diffraction on fibers to analyze the
structure of DNA.
1938 Schoenheimer applies radioactive tracers to
the study of the biosynthesis of cell structures and
concludes that the body is in a state of dynamic
1939 A Coelacanth is caught at the mouth of the
Chalumna River, this specimen of a Latimeria,
a living crossopterygian fish, is caught off the coast of
South Africa. The order Crossopterygii was believed to
have died out in the Cretaceous period after it gave rise
to the amphibian line.
1939 Gregory Goodwin Pincus (Woodbine,
New Jersey, 1903 - 1967) succeeds in inducing
parthenogenesis in a mammalian egg. He is best known for
the invention of the contraceptive pill.
1939 Sven Otto Hörstadius (1898 - 1996)
studies the sea urchin Paracentrotus lividus and
differentiates eggs into the categories "regulative" and
"mosaic" depending on their pattern of development.
1939 Publication of Everett
Just's (Charleston, South Carolina, 1883 -
Washington, DC, 1941) The Biology of the Cell Surface.
1939 Julian Huxley (London, 1887 - London, 1975)
introduces the concept of cline in evolutionary
Wyman Jr (West Newton, Massachusetts,
1901-1995) publishes An Analysis of the Titration Data
of Oxyhemoglobin of the Horse by a Thermal Method,
that was to be at the basis of the theory of allostery
conceived by Jacques Monod and published in 1965
together with Wyman and Changeux.
1939 Samuel Ruben (San Francisco, California, 1913
- died from a laboratory accident, 1943), William Zev
Hassid (Jaffa, Palestine, 1899 - 1974) and Martin
Kamen (Toronto, 1913 - 2002) first apply
radioactive tracers (carbon-11, the only radioactive
tracer available at the time) to the study of
photosynthesis. Kamen was later the co-discoverer
of the radioactive isotope carbon-14. Kamen
suffered shamefully during the anti-Communist witchhunts
of the 1940s and 1950s. He recorded his despair in his
autobiography, Radiant Science, Dark Politics
(1985). His troubles began during the wartime Manhattan
atomic bomb project, when in 1943 he was assigned to
research at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee.
Dubos (Saint-Brice-sous-Forêt, 1901 - New
York, 1982) discovers that soil bacteria produce chemicals
toxic to microbes, Studies on a bactericidal agent
extracted from a soil Bacillus J. Exp. Med., 70:
1-17. This reports the discovery of gramicidin and
tyrocidin, produced by Bacillus brevis. With Rollin
Hotchkiss they file the first patent ever protecting
the discovery of an antibiotic. It must be noted that this
was the first record of antibiotics produced by Bacilli,
for reasons that are not totally clear the discovery was
not placed in the limelight. When the genome
sequence of Bacillus subtilis was uncovered
in 1997, it came out as a surprise that the organism was
producing several antibiotics: this would not have been
the case if Dubos contribution had received the
recognition it deserved.
1939 G Borgström (? - ?) finds that shoots exposed
to ethylene exhibited positive geotropism associates with
the predicted auxin distribution. Ethylene must in some
way influence the transverse movement of auxin.
Howard Northrop (New York, 1891 - 1987)
publishes Crystalline Enzymes.
1939 Russel E Marker (1902 - 1994) discovers how
to transform diosgenin from wild yams into progesterone,
synthesizing progesterone in large quantities.
Lipmann (Königsberg, Preuss, 1899 -
Poughkeepsie, New York, 1986) postulates the central role
of ATP in the energy transfer cycle. He coins the phrase
"energy-rich phosphate bonds".
1939-1942 Engelhardt and Militsa N Lyubimova
(?-?) discover the ATPase activity of myosin, which is
therefore an enzyme. The main result of the study is
published in Nature in 1939.
1939-1946 Szent-Györgyi discovers actin and
actomyosin and describes the role of ATP in muscle