Timeline of bioethics

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This is a timeline of bioethics, attempting to describe significant events in the development of the field.

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Big picture

Time period Development summary
<1960s Discussions of moral issues in medicine already happen in ancient times, with early contributions by Hippocrates and Plato.[1] In the 20th century, German theologian Fritz Jahr publishes three articles in 1927, 1928, and 1934 using the German term “Bio-Ethik”, forcefully arguing an ethical approach to issues concerning human beings and the environment.[2]
1960s Bioethics as a distinct field of academic study is born in the United States, merging from a cluster of scientific and cultural developments in the country during that decade.[3]
1970s Many bioethics programs and degrees are established at universities in the United States in order to provide students – most notably medical, law, and public policy students – with some expertise in medical ethics to deal with complex cases.[2] Feminist bioethics develops from the early 1970s on and is initially focused on medical ethics; proponents later extend the areas of interest to issues in the fields of animal and environmental ethics.[2]
1980s "Universities establish human subjects review committees."[4] In the late 1980s, the Russian school of bioethics originates.[5]
1990s In the last decade of the 20th century, the contributions of social scientists to bioethical research become particularly important. Work of this type involves surveys of public attitudes to advances in the life sciences, including xenotransplantation and genetic modification.[1]
2000s Ethics consultation begins to emerge as another, more enduring model of ethics and science interaction. The concept of research ethics consultation develops.[6]

Visual data

Google Trends

The image below shows Google Trends data for "bioethics" search term from January 1, 2004 to July 13, 2020, when the screenshot was taken. A declining interest is appreciated.[7]

Bioethics Google Trends.jpg

Wikipedia Views

The image below shows Wikipedia views for the article Bioethics for desktop, mobile-web, desktop-spider, mobile-web-spider and mobile app, from June 2015 to June 2020.[8]

Bioethics Wikipedia Views.png

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Location
380 BC Field development The Republic of Plato advocates selective human breeding in anticipation of later programs of eugenics.[1]
1259 – 1265 Literature Italian philosopher Thomas Aquinas writes his Summa contra Gentiles, which briefly discusses the permissibility of abortion.[1] Italy
1620 Literature English philosopher Francis Bacon publishes his Novum Organon, in which he argues that scientific research should benefit humanity.[9] United Kingdom
1796 "Edward Jenner inoculates eight-year-old James Phipps with fluid from a cowpox pustule to immunize him against smallpox."[10][11]
1830 "Charles Babbage writes the book Reflections on the Decline of Science in England. This was one of books to catalog scientific misdeeds. Originated such terms as data trimming, data fudging, data falsification, and data cooking."
1859 Literature English naturalist Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, which proposes a theory of evolution of living things by natural selection. The book would generate much controversy because it proposes that human beings were not created by God (as most religions claimed) but descended from apes.[12] United Kingdom
1885 "Louis Pasteur administers an experimental rabies vaccine to nine-year-old Joseph Meister without testing it on animals first."[13][14][15] France
1926 Literature German theologian Fritz Jahr, referring to European and Oriental traditions, publishes an article entitled Natural sciences and teaching ethics where he gives the subtitle “Old Knowledge in new clothes” describing the function of natural sciences for education and teaching biological research ethics.[5] Germany
1927 Concept development Fritz Jahr publishes article using the German term “Bio-Ethik” (which translates as “Bio-Ethics”) and argues, both for the establishment of a new academic discipline, and for the practice of a new, more civilized, ethical approach to issues concerning human beings and the environment. Jahr would publish similar articles discussing bioethics in 1928, and 1934.[2] Germany
1931 Policy (reproductive rights) Mexico becomes the first country in the world to legalize abortion in cases of rape.[16] Mexico
1932 Literature (journal) Peer-reviewed academic journal The Linacre Quarterly is established.[17] United States
1932 The Tuskegee syphilis experiment is conducted.[18][19] United States
1947 American ecologist Aldo Leopold publishes The Land Ethic, a chapter in A Sand County Almanac. Leopold argues that there is a critical need for a "new ethic," an "ethic dealing with human's relation to land and to the animals and plants which grow upon it".[20] United States
1948–1953 Publication American biologist Alfred Kinsey publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Five years later, he publishes Sexual Behavior in the Human Female. These books, known as the Kinsey Reports would become very controversial, because they examine topics which were regarded as taboo at the time, such as masturbation, orgasm, intercourse, promiscuity, and sexual fantasies.[21][22] United States
1956–1980 Research team led by Saul Krugman and Joan Giles conducts hepatitis experiments on mentally disabled children at The Willowbrook State School. The subjects are intentionally infected with the disease and researchers ovserve its natural progression. The experiments are approved by the New York Department of Health.[23][24] United States
1961 "The Milgram Experiment was conducted to test how far a subject would go to earn approval of an authority figure. The experiment was thought to violate many ethical standards due to extenuating emotional conflict and stress."[25][26]
1967 Journal of Value Inquiry
1967 Science, Technology, & Human Values
1969 Organization The Hastings Center is founded as a bioethics research institute. It is located in Garrison, New York.[27][28] United States
1970 Literature Paul Ramsey publishes The Patient as Person: Explorations in Medical Ethics.[29][2]
1970 Organization The Institute of Society, Ethics and the Life Sciences (later Hastings Center) is founded. A freestanding bioethics center, it is the first institution devoted to the study of bioethical questions.[3][30] United States
1970 Literature American biochemist Van Rensselaer Potter publishes his article Bioethics, the Science of Survival, which suggests viewing bioethics as a global movement in order to foster concern for the environment and ethics.[2][30]
1971 Literature Van Rensselaer Potter publishes book Bioethics: Bridge to the Future.[30] United States
1971 Hastings Center Report
1971 Concept development Georgetown University researcher Andre Hellegers uses the term bioethics to refer to interdisciplinary research moral problems of biomedicine, primarily associated with the need to protect the dignity and rights of patients.[5] United States
1971 Organization The Joseph and Rose Kennedy Center for the Study of Human Reproduction and Bioethics (now known as Kennedy Center) opens at Georgetown University. With similar goals to those of The Hastings Center, the Kennedy Institute is however placed inside the traditional academy.[3][30] Founded by Andre Hellegers, it is the first in the world to establish an institute of bioethics on the basis of interdisciplinary research and approaches.[5] United States
1972 Organization National Catholic Bioethics Center.[31][32][33] United States
1973 Concept development Dan Callahan writes essay Bioethics as a Discipline, whose title is the first entry of the word "bioethics" in the catalogue of the National Library of Congress.[30] In the article, Callahan argues for the establishment of a new academic discipline.[2] United States
1973 "After conducting hearings on unethical research involving human subjects, including the Tuskegee study, Congress passes the National Research Act in 1973, which President Nixon signs in 1974. The Act authorizes federal agencies (e.g. the NIH and FDA) to develop human research regulations. The regulations require institutions to form Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) to review and oversee research with human subjects."[34][35] United States
1975 Field development Peter Singer claims that human beings must consider the equal interests of human beings and animals alike.[2]
1975 Field development At a gathering at the Asilomar Conference on Recombinant DNA, scientists discuss the benefits and risks of recombinant DNA research; the NIH forms the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee." "Scientists gather at Asilomar, California to discuss the benefits and risks of recombinant DNA experiments and agree upon a temporary moratorium for this research until they can develop biosafety standards. The NIH forms the Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee to provide guidance for researchers and institutions. Research institutions form Institutional Biosafety Committees (IBCs) to review and oversee research involving hazardous biological materials." [36][37][38] United States
1978 Literature The Encyclopedia of Bioethics launches its first edition, becoming the first reference book to focus exclusively on the field of bioethics.[39][5]
1980 Policy In the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case the United States Supreme Court rules that a genetically modified bacterium can be patented because it is the product of human ingenuity. This sets a precedent for patents on other life forms and helps to establish solid intellectual property protection for the new biotechnology industry.[36] United States
1980 Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics
1982 William Broad and Nicholas Wade publish Betrayers of the Truth, which attempts to reveal much of the scientific misconduct that happens at this time.[40]
1986 Literature Peer-reviewed academic journal Biology and Philosophy is launched.[41]
1987 Literature Ren-zong Qiu's Bioethics is published as the first bioethics book in China.[42] China
1987 Literature Peer-reviewed academic journal Bioethics is launched.[43]
1988 Literature Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics is established.[44]
1988 Scientific development Harvard University and Dow Chemical Company patent a genetically engineered mouse used to study cancer.[45][46][47][36] United States
1988 Literature Van Rensselaer Potter publishes Global bioethics.[5]
1989 Literature The United States National Academy of Sciences publishes On Being A Scientist, a free, short book on research ethics for scientists in training.[36] United States
1989 Literature The U.S. National Academies Press publishes On Being A Scientist, a free, short book on research ethics for scientists in training.[48][49][50] United States
1990 Legal Trends in Bioethics.[51]
1990 Program launch The Human Genome Project is launched by the United States as a US$20 billion effort to map and sequence the human genome.[52][53] United States
1991 Organization London-based Nuffield Council on Bioethics is established by the Nuffield Foundation to adress numerous bioethical issues in need of analysis.[54][55][56] United Kingdom
1991 Literature The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal is launched.[57][58] United States
1992 "NAS publishes Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. The book estimates the incidence of misconduct, discusses some of the causes of misconduct, proposes a definition of misconduct, and recommends some strategies for preventing misconduct."[59][60]
1992 Literature Quarterly peer-reviewed academic journal Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics is launched.[61]
1992 Literature The United States National Academy of Sciences publishes Responsible Science: Ensuring the Integrity of the Research Process. The book estimates the incidence of misconduct, discusses some of the causes of misconduct, proposes a definition of misconduct, and recommends some strategies for preventing misconduct.[36] United States
1992 Literature Peer-reviewed academic journal Environmental Values is established.[62][63] United Kingdom
1992 The United States Office of Research Integrity is formed.[64] United States
1993 Scientific development Researchers successfully clone human embryos.[36]
1993 Organization The International Bioethics Committee is established by UNESCO to provide guidance on ethical and legal issues raised by research in medicine, biological sciences and associated technologies, and to reinforce knowledge in ethics.[65][66]
1994 American psychologist Richard Herrnstein and American political scientist Charles Murray publish The Bell Curve, a controversial book that reignites the centuries old debate about biology, race and intelligence"[67] United States
1994 Montreal surgeon Roger Poisson admits to fabricating and falsifying patient data in NIH-funded breast cancer clinical trials in order allow his patients to qualify for enrollment and have access to experimental treatments.[68][69] Canada
1995 About 200 religious leaders join in Washington, DC., with leading biotechnology critic Jeremy Rifkin in a press conference named the "Joint Appeal against Human and Animal Patenting", protesting the patenting of plants, animals, and human body parts.[36][70][71] United States
1995 Organization The Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is established.[72][73] United States
1995 Organization The University of Toronto Joint Centre for Bioethics is established.[74] Canada
1995 Concept development American philosopher Daniel Callahan defines bioethics as a science “which is the product of biomedical achievements related to the environment and social sciences”.[5] United States
1995 The Tokyo subway sarin attack is perpetrated. This would further increase concern among scientists and defense analysts about the use of chemical or biological weapons.[75] Japan
1995 Science and Engineering Ethics
1996 Scientific development Dolly is born as the first mammal ever to be cloned from another individual’s body cell. Her birth is announced in 1997, followed by several European nations banning human cloning. The United States Congress considers a bill to ban all human cloning but changes its mind after scientists argue that the bill would undermine biomedical research.[36][76][77] United Kingdom
1996 Organization The National Bioethics Advisory Commission is established.[78][79]
1996 Literature (book) American philosopher David Abram publishes The Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World. Abram coins the phrase "the more-than-human world" as a way of referring to earthly nature.[80]
1996 Literature (book) American philosopher H. Tristram Engelhardt Jr. publishes The Foundation of Bioethics, in which he states “Moral diversity is real. It is real in fact and in principle. Bioethics and healthcare policy have yet to take this diversity seriously. Those who teach bioethics, those who engage in bioethics committees, even those who produced textbooks tend to discount the diversity of understanding regarding the morality of particular health care choices (e.g., regarding abortion, commercial surrogacy, euthanasia/ germline genetic engineering, inequalities in access to health care, infanticide, organ sales) or the nature of morality (e.g., theological, deontological, virtue-based)".[5] United States
1997 Organization The Committee On Publication Ethics is established in the United Kingdom, consisting in academic journal editors and others who are concerned about the integrity of what is peer-reviewed and published in journals.[81][82] United Kingdom
1998 As scientists perfect methods for growing human embryonic stem cells, some countries ban the research, while others promote it.[83][84][85]
1998 Scientific development Methods for growing human embryonic stem cells are perfected. Some countries ban the research; others promote it.[36]
1998 Scientific development American biotechnologist Craig Venter forms Celera Genomics and begins a private effort to sequence the human genome, using dozens of automated sequencing machines.[36]
1998 Ethical Theory and Moral Practice
1999 Literature (journal) AMA Journal of Ethics is launched.[86] United States
1999 Literature The American Journal of Bioethics is launched.[87] United Sattes
1999 Literature Chinese bioethicist Lee Shui-chuen publishes Confucian Bioethics (in Chinese).[88][89][90] China
2001 Literature Peer-reviewed journal The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly is launched.[91] United States
2001 Policy Several journals start requiring authors to describe their responsibilities when publishing research.[36]
2001 Organization The International Society for Stem Cell Research is established to promote the exchange and dissemination of information and ideas relating to stem cells.[92][93]
2001 Organization The President's Council on Bioethics is created by United States President George W. Bush to advice the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology.[94] United States
2001 Organization The Center for Genetics and Society is established.[95] United States
2002 The President's Council on Bioethics recommends that the United States ban reproductive cloning and enact a moratorium on research cloning.[36][96][97][98] United States
2002 Researchers publish several papers in prominent journals with direct implications for bioterrorism, some described methods include one for genetically engineering a form of mousepox virus that is much deadlier than the naturally occurring strain. Another shows how to make the poliovirus by obtaining supplies from a mail-order company. Another study develops a mathematical model for showing how many people would be killed by infecting the United States milk supply with botulinum toxin.[99]
2002 Organization The Toi Te Taiao: The Bioethics Council is established.[100][101] New Zealand
2003 The American Society for Microbiology, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies held a meeting to discuss the censorship biological research that poses security risks. Self-censorship of some research is also agreed by journals.[102][103]
2003 The United States invades Iraq with the stated purpose of eliminating its chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons programs. So far, evidence of weapons programs but no actual weapons would be found.[36] Iraq
2003 The International Bioethics Committee issues a second global instrument, the International Declaration on Human Genetic Data, which may be regarded as an extension of the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights.[104][105]
2004 Literature The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry is released by the University of Otago Bioethics Centre.[106] New Zealand
2005 The Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights is adopted by UNESCO.[107][108]
2005 The National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity is established by the United States Department of Health and Human Services "to provide advice and guidance to federal agencies, scientists, and journals concerning oversight and public of research in biotechnology or biomedicine which can be readily applied to cause significant harm to public health, agriculture, the economy, or national security".[109] United States
2005 Literature American professor George Annas publishes American bioethics: crossing human rights and health law boundaries.[110] United States
2006 Literature Quarterly peer-reviewed scientific journal BioSocieties is released.[111]
2008 Literature The International Journal of Feminist Approaches to Bioethics is launched to encourage more work in feminist bioethics.[112][113]
2009 Organization Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues is established by United States President Barack Obama to advise the president and the administration on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and related areas of science and technology.[114] United States
2009 Organization The Bangladesh Bioethics Society is established.[115] Bangladesh
2010 Literature (book) George Annas publishes Worst case bioethics: death, disaster, and public health.[116] United States
2011 Literature Triannual academic journal Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics is first issued.[117]
2012 Organization The Center for the Study of Bioethics is founded by Serbian American philosopher Vojin Rakić with the purpose to stimulate scientific debate on a variety of issues bioethics deals with. It is based in Belgrade, Serbia.[118]
2012 Literature The Canadian Journal of Bioethics is established.[119] Canada
2013 The Supreme Court of the United States rules that isolated and purified DNA cannot be patented and that only DNA that has been modified by human beings can be patented.[120] United States
2014 Various funding agencies and journals, including the National Institutes of Health, Science, and Nature, take steps to promote reproducibility in science in response to reports that many published studies in the biomedical, behavioral, and physical sciences are not reproducible.[36]
2014 New Mexico Second District Judge Nan Nash rules that terminally ill patients have the right to aid in dying under the state constitution, i.e., making it legal for a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill patient.[121] United States
2015 Literature American bioethicist Alice Dreger publishes Galileo's Middle Finger, which discusses the ethics of medical research.[122] United States

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See also

External links


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