Last week the news was full of tributes to Captain Sir Tom Moore, who died at the age of 100.

This time last year, the country hadn’t heard of the man who has been called “an inspiration” by many, but after he decided to walk 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of April, and get sponsored to do so, Captain Tom became a household name.  The story didn’t end there, though.  he more than surpassed his initial £1000, going on to raise £33 million for NHS Charities Together, was made honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College, was knighted by the Queen, had a number one hit single with Michael Ball, published an autobiography, created the Captain Tom Foundation to continue fundraising for charities, achieved not one, but two, Guinness World Records, was awarded The BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award and was named GQ magazine’s Inspiration of the Year as part of it’s Men of the Year edition.

I had recently finished reading Captain Tom’s autobiography when I heard the news of his death, and flicking though the black and white photograph sections, I started to think bout all the changes that he must have seen during his lifetime, and in particular, the changes in Science.

When Captain Tom was born in 1920, penicillin hadn’t been discovered, so there were no antibiotics.  It wasn’t until 1929 that Alexander Flemming discovered what was to become known as a “wonder drug.”   This is just one of countless medical advances that occurred since 1920.

Here are just a few of the medical advances that have occurred in the last 101 years:

1922: Isolation of insulin to help treat diabetes.

1928: The iron lung (fore-runner of the ventilator)

1929: Penicillin discovery

1945: Mass production of penicillin

1948: NHS Founded

1951: First cancer cell line (HeLa) propagated, leading to worldwide research for the treatment of cancer.

1952: Development of the first Polio vaccine.

1954: First successful human organ transplant.

1958: First patient received an implanted pacemaker.

1965: First portable defibrillator installed in an ambulance

1971: CT scanners

1980 Small pox declared eradicated.

1993: First bionic limb

2013: 3-d printed body parts.

They are just a few highlights of the advances that have occurred in medicine, but what about in other areas of Science?

The study of how humans, plants and animals pass on their characteristics has been around for sometime.  Gregor Mendel, the Austrian monk known as the Father of Genetics completed his work between 1856 and 1863, but it was largely forgotten until the 20th century:

1943: chromosomes proved to be made up of DNA.

1952: Proteins shown to be made from sequences of amino acids

1953: Structure of DNA

1977: First sequencing of the DNA of an organism.

1996: Dolly the sheep, (first mammal to be cloned) was born.

2001: The first draft of the Human Genome Project was published.

So far, all we have really looked at have been advances in medicine and biology, but what about the other sciences?

In Physics:

1922: BBC Founded

1924: The Milky Way was realised to be just one of many galaxies.

1927: The Big Bang theory was suggested.

1929: Public TV broadcasting began.

1932: Nuclear fission by proton bombardment was discovered.

1947: The first aircraft to fly supersonic.

1961: First orbit of Earth by a human.

1969: First  humans land on the Moon.

1964: Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation was discovered, which gave proof for the Big Bang theory.

2015: Traces of liquid water are found on Mars.

But what about Chemistry?  

1926: Invention of the continuous process freezer

1930: Neoprene invented

1935: Nylon invented

1937: Catalytic cracking of petroleum developed.

1941: Velcro invented

1946: Radiocarbon dating suggested

1965: Kevlar invented

1972: 5CB discovered, meaning LCD screens are possible.

1984: Buckminsterfullerene (“Bucky Balls”) first generated.

Over his lifetime, Captain Tom would have seen huge changes to Science, technology and society in general.  When he was born, very few people owned cars, the population of the world was between 1.6 and 2 billion and when he died the population of the world had reached 7.8 billion, 81% of adults in the UK own a car.

Until next time, keep calm and apply some Science!

Read More:

A century of change: the Institute of Physics turns 100

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