This Week in Science History: 11-10-10

By Peter Dearden 14/10/2010


This week in Science History

Tamsin Jones, Laboratory for Evolution and Development

Theodor Heinrich Boveri — Born 12 October 1862, died 15 October 1915

Theodor Boveri
Theodor Boveri

Boveri, a German biologist, was one of the first scientists to show that chromosomes are the units of inheritance. He discovered in his work on sea urchins that all chromosomes needed to be present for embryonic development to take place. He also discovered the centrosome, a small structure that is needed for cell division.

Boveri also proposed that cancerous tumours were the result of a single cell getting its chromosomes scrambled and dividing uncontrollably. He was later proven correct by Thomas Hunt Morgan in 1915.

J. Craig Venter — Born 14 October 1946

Craig Venter (Image: PLoS Biology)
Craig Venter (Image: PLoS Biology)

Recently in the news for leading the team who created the world’s first synthetic bacteria, Venter has a long history of technological breakthroughs in genetics. He was one of the first scientists to publish the sequence of the human genome, and has had his own genome sequenced and published.

Venter is currently working at the J. Craig Venter Institute, which he founded, researching synthetic biology and documenting genetic diversity in the world’s oceans.

First public demonstration of ether as an anaesthetic — 16 October 1846

A replica of the inhaler used by Morton during the first public demonstration of the use of ether during surgery
A replica of the inhaler used by Morton during the first public demonstration of the use of ether during surgery

Dr William Thomas Green Morgan (1819-1868), an American dentist, performed a public demonstration showing the use of ether as an anaesthetic for surgery. The patient, who was getting a small tumour removed from his jaw, inhaled the ether from a blown glass flask. Two weeks previously, Morgan had privately performed a tooth extraction using ether as an anaesthetic. After the public demonstration, the use of ether during surgery spread quickly to other countries.

The first use of ether as an anaesthetic is actually credited to Dr Crawford Williamson Long, who used it in 1842, but he didn’t publish his finding until 1848.