Timeline of virology

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This is a timeline of virology, attempting to describe important events in the development of the field. There are 219 virus species that are known to be able to infect humans, with the yellow fever virus being the first to be discovered in 1901.[1] In addition to virus discoveries, the timeline also describes important related events, such as microscopy, and technologies with impact on structural virology.

Big picture

Time period Development summary
19th century The scientific study of viruses and the infections they cause begin in the closing years of the 19th century, with filtration becoming the first major development in the technology of virus discovery.[1]
1930s–1940s In the mid–1930s, scientists begin thinking of viruses in molecular terms.[2] Work with viruses expands greatly during the 1930s and 1940s with the invention of the ekectron microscope.[3]
1940s Direct visualization of viruses become possible after the electron microscope is introduced.[4]
1950s Modern biology begins with the determination of the three-dimensional structure of the DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick and the first high-resolution X-ray structures of proteins, myoglobin and hemoglobin.[5] Several journals are released in the decade.
1960s < Modern era of virology. The replicative cycles of viruses start being described in great detail. The elaborate interactions between viral genomes, viral proteins and the cellular machinery of the host are demostrated.[6]

Full timeline

Year Event type Details Geographical location
1576 Scientific development Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius becomes the first to describe plant virus disease as variegation in the colour of tulip flowers.[7]
1590 Scientific development Dutch spectacle-maker Zacharias Janssen develops the first compound microscope in Middelburg.[8][9][10] Netherlands
1876 Scientific development Adolf Meyer is the first to show that the tobacco mosaic disease is infectious when transmitted to a healthy plant, concluding that the disease is caused by a very small bacterium or a toxin.[11][12] Netherlands
1880 Scientific development French biologist Louis Pasteur uses the term virus for the first time while studying canine rabies.[7] France
1884 Scientific development French microbiologist Charles Chamberland invents the filter.[13][14][15] France
1886 Virus discovery The first laboratory viral diagnosis is obtained by direct detection of the virus particles in smallpox lesions by British physician John Buist of Edinburgh, who becomes the first person to see virus particles, after reporting seeing "micrococci" in vaccine lymph.[16][17] United Kingdom
1886 German agricultural chemist Adolf Mayer observes mottling disease in leaves of tobacco plants and names it mosaikkrankhet i.e., mosaic. Meyer shows that tobacco mosaic is infectious but fails to isolate any causal organism from the diseased tissue.[7][7]
1886–1898 Scientific development The “filterable agent” infectivity, for tobacco mosaic virus and foot-and-mouth disease virus is demonstrated.[18]
1892 Russian botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky gives the first scientific demonstration of existence of a virus.[7][2][7]
1898 Dutch microbiologist Martinus Beijerinck, publishes results on the filtration experiments demonstrating that tobacco mosaic disease is caused by an infectious agent smaller than a bacterium.[19] Beijerinck is considered one of the founders of virology.[20][21][22][23] Netherlands
1898 Scientific development Italian bacteriologist Giuseppe Sanarelli, working in Uruguay, describes the smallpox virus relative and tumour-causing myxoma virus of rabbits as a virus, but on the basis of sterilisation by centrifugation rather than by filtration.[24] Uruguay
1898 Virus discovery The second virus discovered is what is now known as Foot and mouth disease virus (FMDV), discovered by German scientists Friedrich Loeffler and Paul Frosch, who observed that the causative agent of foot and mouth disease of cattle was filterable and dependent on host organism for replication.[7][24]
1901 Virus discovery American Army physician Walter Reed proves that yellow fever is caused by a filterable agent, i.e., a virus, and that it is transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes.[25][26][27]
1902–1906 Scientific development Rinderpest, vaccinia, rabies and Cassava mosaic all shown to be filterable viruses.[18]
1906 Virus discovery Italian microbiologist Adelchi Negri shows that the smallpox germ is also a filterable agent, or virus.[28][29][30]
1908 Virus discovery The poliovirus is first isolated by inoculation of monkeys with a cell-free extract made from the spinal cord of a fatal case of poliomyelitis.[31][32]
1908–1911 Scientific development Avian leukosis and poliomyelitis and chicken sarcomas are shown to be caused by viruses.[18]
1911 Virus discovery American virologist Francis Peyton Rous first describes the Rous sarcoma virus.[33]
1912 Scientific development Structural virology: X-ray crystallography is developed.[5]
1915 Virus discovery English bacteriologist Frederick Twort discovers the micrococcus phage and becomes the first to describe bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria).[34][35][36][2][37]
1915 Discovery The bacteriophage of staphylococci is discovered.[38]
1917 Virus discovery French microbiologist Félix d'Herelle discovers the bacteriophage of shigellae.[39][40][41][37][38]
1918 Discovery The bacteriophage of salmonellae is discovered.[42]
1925 Scientific development Parkor and Nye manage to grow vaccinia virus by the slide technique, employing rabbit testis embedded in a plasma clot.[43]
1927 Discovery Adrian Strokes isolates the Yellow fever virus in West-Africa.[44][45][46] West Africa
1927 Virus discovery The first avian paramyxovirus is isolated and identified.[47]
1928 Publication American virologist Thomas Milton Rivers publishes Filterable Viruses, a collection of essays covering all known viruses at the time.[48][49] United States
1929 Scientific development Howard Andervost, at Harvard University, show that human herpes simplex virus could be cultured by injection into the brains of live mice.[24] United States
1929 Scientific development Complement fixation develops as technique of virus discovery.[1]
1930 Discovery The Western equine encephalitis virus (WEEV) is first isolated in California.[50][51][52] United States
1930 Scientific development Structural virology: The principles of small-angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) and first applications are developed.[5]
1930–1931 Scientific development Bacteriophages are proven to adsorb irreversibly to their hosts.[18]
1931 Scientific development German physicist Ernst Ruska and Max Knoll build the first electron microscope. This would reveal complex structures of virus, particles, and bacteriophages.[5] Germany
1931 Scientific development American virologist Robert Shope manages to recreate swine influenza by intranasal administration of filtered secretions from infected pigs.[53] United States
1931 Scientofoc development The fowlpox virus – a relative of smallpox – is grown by inoculating the chorioallantoic membrane of eggs.[18]
1931 Scientific development American pathologist Ernest William Goodpasture invents methods of growing viruses and rickettsia in chicken embryos and fertilised chicken eggs. This approach would lead to the development of vaccines against influenza, chicken pox, smallpox, yellow fever, typhus and many other diseases.[54][55][56] United States
1931 Scientific development British microbiologist William Joseph Elford discovers that viruses range in size from large protein molecules to tiny bacteria.[57]
1931 Scientific development CG Vinson and AM Petre, show the ability to precipitate the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) from suspension as if it were an enzyme, and that infectivity of the precipitated preparation is preserved.[53]
1932 Scientific development German bacteriologist Eugen Haagen and South African virologist Max Theiler manage to grow a neurotropic strain (produced by means of repeated passages in mouse brain) of the yellow fever virus.[58]
1933 Scientific development Schlessinger purifies the first virus using differential centrifugation.[5]
1933 Virus discovery The influenza virus is first isolated by Wilson Smith, Christopher H. Andrewes, and Patrick P. Laidlaw.[59]
1933 Virus discovery The eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) virus is first isolated.[60][61][62] United States
1934 Discovery Mumps virus is discovered in experiments by Claud D. Johnson and Ernest W. Goodpasture.[63][64][65]
1934–1936 Scientific development Bacteriophages are found to consist of equal amounts of protein and DNA. This is the first proof that viruses are nucleoprotein.[18]
1935 Scientific development American biochemist Wendell Meredith Stanley, working in the plant pathology section of the Princeton branch of the Rockefeller Institute, manages to isolate a crystalline protein from the juice of eaves on turkish tobacco plants infected with TMV. Stanley shows that the protein crystals have exactly the same inefective properties as TMV therefore concluding that they are the active agent of TMV that allow it to infect plants and replicate itself within their cells. This work is considered largely responsible for the establishment of virology.[7][66][2][67][68] United States
1935 Virus discovery Japanese encephalitis virus is first isolated in Japan.[69][70][71] Japan
1936 Scientific development Australian virologist Frank Macfarlane Burnet conducts a series of experiments on culturing human influenza virus in eggs, quickly realizing that it is possible to do pock assays for influenza virus.[53][72][73]
1936 Scientific development J. D. Bernal, F. C. Bauden, N. W, Pirie, and I. Pankuchen demonstrate that isolated preparations of tobacco mosaic virus contain phosphorus as a component of a phospho-ribonucleic acid. The team also manages to isolate ribonucleic acids, challenging the claim by Stanley that the TMV is composed only of protein.[57]
1937 Scientific development Bawden and Pirie study the chemical nature of the tobacco mosaic virus TMV and show that the crystalline preparation of the virus consists of protein and nucleic acid. Bawen and Pirie, after purifying extensively tobacco mosaic virus, show it to be nucleoprotein containing ribonucleic acid (RNA)[7][74][5][75][76]
1938 Scientific development Vaccinia and TMV are first visualized with the electron microscope.[5]
1938–1943 German physician and biologist Helmut Ruska, using beams of electrons deflected off virus particles coated in heavy metal atoms, becomes the first to image virus particles. Using his “supermicroscope”, Ruska would image virions of poxviruses, tobacco mosaic virus, varicella-zoster virus, and bacteriophages, showing that they are all particulate (consisting of regular and sometimes complex particles, and are often very different from one another). Helmut Ruska would even proposed in 1943 a system of viral classification on the basis of their perceived structure.[53]
1939 Scientific development Stanley and Max Lauffer separate the virus into protein and nucleic acid.
1939 Scientific development Francis Holmes, a pioneer in plant virology, describes 129 viruses that cause disease of plants.
1939 Scientific development Experiment on bacteriophages shows they multiply inside cells.[18]
1939 Publication The journal Archiv fir die gesamte Virusforschung by Springer Verlag (continued as Archives of Virology) is released in Vienna.[77] Austria
1939 Scientific development American biochemist Emory Ellis and German–American biophysicist Max Delbrück establish the concept of the one-step viral growth cycle for a bacteriophage active against escherichia coli.[57] United States
1941 Scientific development Structural virology: the first X-ray diffraction patterns of tomato bushy stunt virus TBSV and tobacco mosaic virus TMV crystals are recorded.[5][78]
1943 Virus discovery The dengue virus is first isolated by Japanese scientists Ren Kimura and Susumu Hotta.[79][80] Japan
1946 Scientific development Biophysicist Max Delbrück and American bacteriologist Alfred Hershey discover independently that viruses can exchange or combine genes.[81]
1948 Scientific development Tissue culture is introduced as technique for virus discovery.[1]
1949 Scientific development Markham and Smith find that preparations of turnip ywllow mosaic virus comprise two types of identically sized spherical particles, only one of which contain nucleic acid.[74]
1949 Scientific development The ability of poliovirus to be propagated in cultured cells is discovered, leading to studies of viral replication.[82]
1949 Virus discovery Enteroviruses are discovered.[83]
c.1949 Scientific development American biomedical scientist John Franklin Enders and coworkers show that viruses can be grown in cultured cells.[81] United States
1949 Virus discovery The coxsackievirus B3 is first isolated from feces of a Connecticut patient.[84] United States
1952 Virus discovery Weller and Stoddard first isolate the varicella-zoster virus (VZV) from varicella vesicle fluid.[85][86][87]
1952 Scientific development American scientists Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase conduct the salter called Hershey–Chase experiment demonstrating the independent functions of viral protein and nucleic acid using the head-tail virus, bacteriophage T2.[74]
1952–1954 Scientific development Mammalian cell monolayer cultures demonstrate “one virus, one plaque” principle for animal viruses. Measles and adenoviruses are discovered using cell culture.[18]
1953 Scientific development American molecular biologist James Watson and British molecular biologist Francis Crick discover the double helix, the twisted-ladder structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), marking a milestone in the history of science and giving rise to modern molecular biology.[5][88]
1953 Australian microbiologist and immunologist Frank Macfarlane Burnet claims that virology did not become an independent science until the 1950s.[77]
1953 Scientific development Studies on southern bean mosaic virus (SBMV), tomato bushy stunt virus (TBSV) and tomato necrosis virus (TNV) are carried out with SAXS.[5]
1953 Virus discovery Adenovirus is first discovered as an agent causing upper respiratory tract infections in men.[89][90][91]
1953 Publication The journal Advances in Virus Research is released.[77]
1954 Discovery Enders and Peebles first isolate the measles virus.[92][93][94]
1955 Publication The journal Virology is released.[77]
1955 Scientific development Cecil Hall studies the morphology and structure of virus, using electron microscope.[7][95]
1955 Scientific development English chemist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin discovers the full structure of the tobacco mosaic virus, and shows that individual TM viruses are all exactly of the same length.[96][97][98] United Kingdom
1955–1958 Scientific development Viral RNA from tobacco mosaic virus proves to be an infectious component of the virus and that it chemically-induces mutations in it affecting the viral phenotype.[18]
1956 Discovery Human rhinoviruses are first identified in culture.[99][100][101]
1956 Watson and Crick propose the principles of virus organization.[5]
1956 Publication The journal Voprosy Virusologii starts being published.[77]
1957 Publication The journal Acta Virologica is released.[77]
1957 Scientific development Fraenkel-Conrat and Singer confirm the hereditary role of viral RNA.[74]
1958 Scientific development The single-stranded RNA genome of poliovirus is proven to be infectious.[18]
1958 Virus discovery Moneypox virus is discovered after being isolated from the lesions of captive monkeys in Copenhagen.[102][103][104] Denmark
1958 Publication The journal Progress in Medical Virology is released.[77]
1959 Scientific development John Finch and Aaron Klug unveil the organization of poliomyelitis virus by X-ray diffraction, thus showing the icosahedral symmetry of viruses.[5]
1959 Publication South African biologist Sydney Brenner and Robert Horne publish A negative staining method for high resolution electron microscopy of viruses, describing a method that involves the use of viruses in liquid samples deposited on carbon-coated metal grids, and then stained with heavy-metal salts such as phosphotungstic acid (PTA) or uranyl acetate. The method would replace the use of the cumbersome technique of metal shadow-casting, and the highly inconvenient nature of electron microscopy as a routine tool.[53]
1959 Publication The journal Perspectives in Virology is released.[77]
1962 Virus discovery The rubella virus is first isolated.[105][106][107]
1962 Scientific development Proof that the single-stranded RNA from tobacco mosaic virus and coliphage f2 could be translated into viral proteins in a cell-free bacterial extract is obtained.[18]
1963 Virus discovery American physician Baruch Samuel Blumberg discovers the hepatitis B virus (HBV).[108][109][110] United States
1963 Scientific development Structural virology: the structure of BMV is obtained by combining SAXS and electron microscope.[5]
1964 Scientific development Structural virology: 3D electron microscope reconstruction with helical symmetry is obtained.[5]
1964 Virus discovery British pathologist Michael A. Epstein, along with Yvonne Barr and Bert Achong discover the Epstein-Barr virus.[111][112][113] United Kingdom
1965 Scientific development American virologist Howard Martin Temin, studying the Rous sarcoma virus, discovers that the virus’s RNA inserts its own genes into the DNA of the host cell.[114] United States
1965–1967 Scientific development In vitro synthesis of both positive-sense single-stranded RNA virus (Bacteriophage Qβ) and single-stranded DNA (Phi X 174) bacteriophage genomes are obtained.[18]
1966 Virus discovery The Lassa fever virus is discovered.[115]
1967 Virus discovery The Marburg virus is first isolated.[116]
1967–1971 Scientific development Infectious naked RNA viroids are discovered and characterized, showing to be circular sense single-stranded RNA.[18]
1968 Scientific development Italian microbiologist Salvador Luria and James E. Darnell define viruses as “entities whose genome is an element of nucleic acid either DNA or RNA which reproduce inside living cells and use their synthetic machinery to direct the synthesis of specialized particles, the virions which contain the viral genome and transfer it to other cells.”[7]
1970 Scientific development Russian virologist Joseph Atabekov discovers that many plant viruses only infect a single species of host plant, thus introducing host specificity to viruses as a central point of plant virology.[117]
1970 Scientific development Structural virology: the extension to icosahedral symmetry is obtained.[5]
1971 Scientific development Structural virology: the first SAXS determination of a virus with an internal membrane (lipid-containing bacteriophage PM2) is obtained.[5]
1972 Virus discovery Armenian American virologist Albert Kapikian first identifies the human norovirus in stool specimens collected during an outbreak of gastroenteritis.[118][119][120] United States
1972–1976 Scientific development The complete sequencing of the genome of single stranded RNA of bacteriophage MS2 is obtained, the first living organism for which the entire primary chemical structure is elucidated.[18]
1973 Virus discovery rotavirus, hepatitis A virus
1975 Virus discovery Australian virologist Yvome Cossort first identifies the human parvovirus B19.[121][122][123]
1975 Scientific development German biologist Georges J. F. Köhler and Argentinian biochemist César Milstein generate the first monoclonal antibody, which is considered a major development in the technology of virus discovery.[124][125][1]
1976 Virus discovery The Ebola virus is first described, during an outbreak around the Ebola River in Zaire.[126][127][128]
1977 Scientific development The complete sequencing of the genome of PhiX174 coliphage is obtained. It is the first complete genome sequenced for any DNA-containing organism.[18]
1977 Scientific development Proof of RNA splicing in adenovirus transcripts is obtained. It would be later found common in eukaryotes but not prokaryotes.[18]
1977 Scientific development British biochemist Frederick Sanger works out sequence of bases in genome of a virus.[81]
1978 Scientific development The complete genome sequence of SV40 polyomavirus is obtained. It is the first proof of RNA splicing for an entire genome and of extensive overlapping ORFs.[18]
1978 Scientific development Group led by Heinz Sänger publishes the sequence and the predicte secondary structure of potato spindle tuber viroid. This is the first RNA genome to be sequenced using the still relatively new method of generating complementary DNA (cDNA) from RNA by use of reverse transcriptase.[129]
1978 Virus discovery American biomedical researcher Robert Gallo isolates the first virus shown to cause human cancer. The new form of virus, known as retrovirus is shown to cause leukaemia.[81][130]
1979 Scientific development The first hepatitis B virus DNA is sequence.[131]
1980 Discovery Poiesz et al discover the human T-lymphotropic virus 1 after isolating it from blood cells of a patient with afult T–cell leukemia.[132] HTLV-1 becomes the first tumor–causing virus to be found in humans.[133][134]
1980 Scientific development Structural virology: X-ray crystallography shows the structure of the southern bean mosaic virus (SBMV).[5]
1981 Scientific development Poliovirus becomes the first RNA animal viral genome to be molecularly cloned and sequenced.[135]
1982 Scientific development The complete genome sequencing of tobacco mosaic virus is obtained.[18]
1982 Virus discovery The human T-lymphotropic virus 2 is discovered.[132]
1983 Virus discovery French virologist Luc Montagnier isolates the virus later known as HIV.[81] France
1983 Virus discovery The hepatitis E virus is first identified by immune electron microscopy.[136]
1985 Scientific development Structural virology: X-ray crystallography shows the structure of the two first human viruses: rhinovirus and poliovirus.[5]
1985 Scienitific development German virologist Harald zur Hausen shows that the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is involved in most cases of cervical cancer.[137][138][139]
1985 Scientific development Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is first described. It plays an important role in the technology of virus discovery.[136][140][1]
1986 Virus discovery The human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is discovered.[141][142][143]
1986 Scientific development Structural virology: the first combination between X-ray crystallography and electron microscopy is obtained.[5]
1986–1989 Scientific development The complete structural determination of TMV virions is obtained, including of the encapsidated RNA.[18]
1989 Virus discovery The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is discovered by a research group at Chiron Corporation.[144][145][146] United States
1990 Scientific development The hepatitis E virus is first cloned and sequenced.[136]
1990 Virus discovery The human herpesvirus 7 (HHV-7) is first isolated from a peripheral blood T cell.[147]
1994 Virus discovery The first henipavirus is discovered.[148][149][150]
1997 Discovery The first anellovirus is identified from a patient with posttransfusion nonviral hepatitis.[151][152] Japan
2002 Scientific development Scientists manage to artificially create the polio virus in the laboratory, after succeeding in the complete synthesis of the poliovirus genome.[153][154] United States
2003 Scientific development Team led by American microbiologist Hamilton O. Smith manages to synthetically assemble the bacteriophage Phi X 174 in the laboratory.[155][156][157] United States
2004 Scientific development Structural virology: X-ray crystallography shows the first high resolution structure of a virus with internal lipid-bilayer (PRD1).[5]
2004 Scientific development The genome sequence of mimivirus is determined.[158][159][160]
2010 Scientific development Structural virology: the adenovirus structure is determined at 3.5 Ang by both electron microscopy ans X-ray.[5]

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How the timeline was built

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See also

External links


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