A Century of Nature

This chronology of twentieth-century science is taken from A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World. The twenty-one discoveries discussed in the book are highlighted in color. A Century of Nature reprints twenty-one seminal contributions from Nature and adds commentary by leading scientists.

"Nature's eminence attracts papers of revolutionary import, making this volume of twenty-one articles of wide interest. This anthology's aura of discovery will absorb avid science fans."—Booklist

Chronology of twentieth-century science
from A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World
Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln, editors

1900Quantum theory proposed / Planck
1901Discovery of human blood groups / Landsteiner
1905Wave-particle duality of light / Einstein
1905Special theory of relativity / Einstein
1906Existence of vitamins proposed / Hopkins
1906Evidence that Earth has a core / Oldham
1908Synthesis of ammonia from its elements / Haber
1909Idea of genetic disease introduced / Garrod
1909Boundary between Earth's crust and mantle identified / Mohorovicic
1909Discovery of Burgess Shale: ancient invertebrate fossils / Walcott
1910First mapping of a gene to a chromosome / Morgan and others
1911Discovery of the atomic nucleus / Rutherford
1911Superconductivity discovered / Onnes
1912Discovery of cosmic rays / Hess
1912Idea of continental drift presented / Wegener
1914First steps in elucidating chemical transmission of nerve impulses: neurotransmitters / Dale; Barger; Loewi
1914Astronomical theory of climate change / Milankovitch
1915General theory of relativity / Einstein
1918 onwardSynthesis of genetics with the theory of evolution by natural selection (neodarwinism) / Fisher; Haldane; Wright
1921Isolation of insulin / Banting & Best
1923Nature of galaxies discovered / Hubble
1925Description of Australopithecus africanus / Dart
1925-26Matrix and wave formulations of quantum mechanics / Heisenberg; Schrödinger
1927Matter is proved to be wavelike / Davisson & Germer
1928Discovery of penicillin / Fleming
1929Expansion of the Universe established / Hubble
1929First suggestion that Earth's magnetic field reverses / Matuyama
1930First absolute geological timescale / Holmes
1930sTheory of chemical bonds developed / Pauling
1930s onwardEstablishment of the scientific study of animal behavior / von Frisch; Lorenz; Tinbergen
1931Birth of radioastronomy / Jansky
1931First electron microscope / Ruska
1932Discovery of the neutron / Chadwick
1932Discovery of the positron, first antimatter particle / Anderson
1935Magnitude scale for earthquakes / Richter
1935Theory of the nuclear force / Yukawa
1937Discovery of the citric acid cycle / Krebs
1938Nuclear reactions in stars / Bethe; von Weizsäcker
1938First observation of superfluidity / Kapitza
1939Discovery of nuclear fission / Meitner & Frisch
1943Mutations in bacteria identified / Luria & Delbrück
1944Evidence in bacteria that DNA is the genetic material / Avery, MacLeod, and McCarty
1944Start of Mexican wheat improvement program, leading to the "green revolution" / Borlaug
1945Formulation of the one-gene, one-enzyme hypothesis / Beadle & Tatum
1946Radiocarbon dating / Libby
1946Initial elucidation of the reactions involved in photosynthesis / Calvin
1947Invention of the transistor / Shockley, Bardeen, and Brattain
1948Big Bang theory for origin of the Universe / Gamow, Alpher, and Herman
1948Quantum electrodynamics / Feynman; Schwinger; Tomonaga
1949Immunological tolerance hypothesis proposed / Burnet
1951Presentation of the idea of gene transposition: "jumping genes" / McClintock
1952First polio vaccine / Salk
1952Theory of nerve-cell excitation announced / Hodgkin & Huxley
1953Production of amino acids in "early Earth" conditions / Miller & Urey
1953First determination of the amino-acid sequence of a protein / Sanger et al.
1953Structure of DNA: the double helix / Watson & Crick
1956Discovery of the neutrino / Cowan & Reines
1957Superconductivity explained / Bardeen, Cooper, and Schrieffer
1958Quantum tunneling of electrons in semiconductors / Esaki
1958First three-dimensional protein structure published / Kendrew et al.
1960First laser / Maiman
1960 onwardDiscoveries of fossils of early Homo in East Africa / Leakeys and others
1961Nature of the genetic / triplet code proposed / Crick et al.
1963Deterministic chaos: the butterfly effect / Lorenz
1963Discovery of quasars / Schmidt
1963Explanation for magnetic stripes on the sea floor: seafloor spreading / Vine & Matthews
1964Existence of quarks proposed / Gell-Mann; Zweig
1964Genetic explanations proposed for animal social behavior / Hamilton
1965Discovery of cosmic microwave background radiation / Penzias & Wilson
1967First warning of an anthropogenic "greenhouse effect" / Manabe & Wetherald
1967Theory of plate tectonics / McKenzie & Parker; Morgan
1967Electroweak theory, first unification of fundamental forces / Weinberg; Glashow; Salam
1967Proposal that certain cell organelles are descended from free-living bacteria / Margulis
1968Pulsars discovered / Hewish et al.
1968Theory of random molecular evolution / the neutral theory proposed / Kimura
1970Reverse transcriptase discovered / Baltimore; Temin & Mizutani
1973Gamma-ray bursts from outer space / Klebesadel, Strong, and Olsen
1973Advent of genetic engineering techniques / Cohen, Boyer, and Berg
1973Invention of magnetic resonance imaging / Lauterbur
1974Identification of CFCs as threat to ozone layer / Molina & Rowland
1974Principles of cell-mediated immunity unveiled / Zinkernagel & Doherty
1974Discovery of "Lucy," Australopithecus afarensis / Johanson & Taieb
1974First Grand Unified Theory of particle physics / Georgi & Glashow
1975Monoclonal antibodies created / Köhler & Milstein
1976Patch-clamp technique for studying single ion channels / Neher & Sakmann
1977First complete DNA sequence of an organism / Sanger et al.
1977Discovery of deep-sea hydrothermal vents / Corliss et al.
1978Observation of astronomical dark matter / Rubin
1980Unveiling of genetic controls on animal body-plan development / Nüsslein-Volhard & Wieschaus
1980First human oncogene / "cancer gene" identified / Weinberg
1980Impact hypothesis for extinctions at the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary / Alvarez et al.
1981Superstring theory / Green & Schwarz
1982Prion hypothesis proposed / Prusiner
1983AIDS virus identified / Barré-Sinoussi et al.
1985Genetic fingerprinting invented / Jeffreys
1985Ozone hole discovered / Farman et al.
1985Discovery of buckminsterfullerene / Kroto et al.
1986First high-temperature superconductor / Bednorz & Müller
1987Formulation of the "Out of Africa" hypothesis of human evolution using molecular data / Cann, Stoneking, and Wilson
1995Bose-Einstein condensation of trapped atoms / Cornell & Wieman
1995First extrasolar planet identified / Mayor & Queloz
1997Dolly the sheep created by cloning / Wilmut et al.
2001Publication of near-complete sequences of the human genome / International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium; Venter et al.


Copyright notice: Excerpted from pages xv-xviii of A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World edited by Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©2003 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press and of the author.

Laura Garwin and Tim Lincoln, editors
A Century of Nature: Twenty-One Discoveries that Changed Science and the World
With a Foreword by Steven Weinberg
©2003, 380 pages, 7 halftones, 23 line drawings
Cloth $75.00 ISBN: 0-226-28413-1
Paper $25.00 ISBN: 0-226-28415-8

For information on purchasing the book—from bookstores or here online—please go to the webpage for A Century of Nature.

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