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5th century BC: Hippocrates (460 BC – 370 BC), ancient Greek physician: suggested that “seeds” were produced by different parts of the body and passed on to offspring at conception and that these “seeds” caused certain traits of the offspring to resemble their parents.
4th century BC: Aristotle (384 BC – 322 BC), ancient Greek philosopher: suggested that nonphysical forms of an organism were transmitted through semen - which he considered to be a purified form of the father's blood - which interacted in the womb with the mother's menstrual blood to start an organism's development.
1000: Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi (Albucasis) (936–1013), Arab physician: was the first physician to describe clearly the hereditary nature of haemophilia.
1809: Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (1744 – 1829), French naturalist: suggested that acquired traits can be inherited. This theory is wrong since traits acquired by parents do not affect the genes they pass to their children.
1866: Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884), Austrian: The history of modern genetics started with the work of Gregor Johann Mendel. He observed that organisms inherit traits via discrete units of inheritance, which are now called genes (the pea plant experiment).
1868: Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882), English naturalist: Pangenesis theory: based on inheritance of tiny heredity particles he called gemmules that could be transmitted from parent to offspring. This gemmules were assumed to be shed by the organs of the body and carried in the bloodstream to the reproductive organs where they accumulated in the germ cells or gametes (this theory was proven wrong).
1869: Francis Galton (1822 – 1911), English: refuted Charles Darwin's theory of pangenesis. In his experiments he transfused the blood between dissimilar breeds of rabbits, and examined the features of their offspring. He found no evidence of characters transmitted in the transfused blood.
1870: Charles Naudin (1815–1899), French botanist: was probably the first to suggest that ancestral traits might segregate during reproduction.
1900: Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak: the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's work.
1905: William Bateson (1861 – 1926), English geneticist: coined the term genetics in 1905 and was the chief proponent of the ideas of Gregor Mendel following their rediscovery in 1900.
1908: Godfrey Harold and Wilhelm Weinberg: formulated the Hardy-Weinberg principle that both allele and genotype frequencies in a population remain constant—that is, they are in equilibrium—from generation to generation unless specific disturbing influences are introduced: mutations, selection, limited population size, random genetic drift, etc.
1910: Thomas Hunt Morgan (1866 – 1945), American geneticist; Nobel laureate: argued that genes are located on chromosomes, based on observations of mutations in fruit flies.
1913: Alfred Henry Sturtevant (1891 – 1970), American geneticist: constructed the first genetic map of a chromosome.
1928: Frederick Griffith (1879–1941), British bacteriologist: discovered the phenomenon of transformation - that dead bacteria could transfer genetic material to "transform" other still-living bacteria.
1941: Edward Lawrie Tatum and George Wells Beadle: showed that genes code for proteins
1943: Oswald Avery (1877 - 1955) & Colin MacLeod (1909 -1972) & Maclyn McCarty (1911 – 2005): discovered that DNA is the “transforming factor” and that genes are made of DNA.
1952: Alfred Hershey (1908 - 1997) and Martha Chase (1927 - 2003) showed in the Hershey–Chase experiment that DNA is the genetic material of T2 phage virus.
1953: James D. Watson (1928 - ) & Francis Crick (1916 – 2004) & Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958) & Maurice Wilkins (1916 – 2004): discovery of the double helical structure of DNA .
1972: Walter Fiers (1931 - ) and his team: were the first to determine the sequence of a gene.
1977: Fred Sanger, Walter Gilbert, and Allan Maxam working independently: DNA is sequenced for the first time.
1983: Kary Mullis (1944 - ), American biochemist; Nobel laureate: developed the polymerase chain reaction, providing a quick way to amplify a specific section of DNA; instrumental in analysis of genes.
Famous DNA Scientists
Famous HGP Scientists
Mor Genetics Biography Resources
Elementary / Middle School Level
Geneticists - Fact Monster
Understanding Heredity - PBS
Middle / High School Level
Genetics and Genomics Timeline - GNN
The Human Genome Project Timeline - National Human Genome Research Institute
Landmarks in genetics and genomics - Nature
High School / College Level
Genetics in History - The Human Genome
A History of the Human Genome Project
Major Events in the U.S. Human Genome Project and Related Projects - ORNL
Landmarks In the History of Genetics - UCLA
Heredity and the Genetic Code - Buffalo University