Genetic Timeline

Events

1859

1859

Charles Darwin, himself a proponent of pangenesis, publishes On the Origin of Species – his explanation of evolution by natural selection. Darwin provides a plethora of evidence on how valuable traits become more common in a population, but does not provide any explanation for the mechanism of transmission of these traits

1866

1866

Augustinian monk Gregor Mendel publishes his work on the patterns of inheritance in pea plants. His meticulous studies mark the birth of modern genetics. Mendel’s findings escape the notice of other researchers for over three decades

1882

1882

Chromosomes are discovered by German biologist Walter Fleming, and named with the Greek prefix meaning “colour” because they become stained when cells are dyed

1902

1902

Mendel’s research is rediscovered by botanists in 1900. US and German cell biologists then independently notice the link between Mendel’s “units of inheritance” and chromosomes. They conclude that hereditary information is contained within chromosomes

1905

1905

The term “genetics” is created by British biologist William Bateson. The terms “gene” and “genotype” surface in 1909.

1910

1910

US scientist Thomas Hunt Morgan is the first to discover a sex-linked trait, while studying the fruit fly Drosophila. The trait for eye colour, on the X chromosome, is also the first gene to be traced to a specific chromosome

1925

1925

Studies show that X-rays can induce mutations in the genetic material

1944

1944

A trio of US geneticists revisit work from the 1920s and prove that, in bacteria, DNA is the hereditary material, and not protein as was previously suspected

1951

1951

Clear X-ray diffraction images of DNA are captured for the first time by British researcher Rosalind Franklin

1953

1953

Building on Franklin’s work, biochemist James Watson and biophysicist Francis Crick at Cambridge University, UK, determine the now famous double-helix structure of DNA. They are awarded a Nobel prize in 1962 for their efforts.