ad collaborative post // DNA sequencing is a true marvel of the modern medical world. The advent of the technology has allowed us to gain never before insights into our genetic past and has been crucial for the identification and treatment of a range of conditions and diseases.

Photo by Sangharsh Lohakare on Unsplash

How was this incredible technique first discovered? To find out we’ll have to go back to the mid-19th century. Read on to find out more.

The discovery of DNA

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, was first discovered back in 1869 by Swiss physician and biologist Friedrich Miescher. While he was the first scientist to successfully isolate DNA, its importance was still little understood at that time.

It was until 1953, when scientists James Watson and Francis Crick made a groundbreaking discovery. They proposed that DNA was responsible for passing on inherited, genetic information, and even popularised its iconic double helix structure.

If it wasn’t for the discoveries of these pioneering scientists, DNA sequencing and, indeed, medical science, would not be where it is today.

The first sequencing methods

Over two decades later in 1977, English biochemist Frederick Sanger implemented what was to be one of the first and most successful DNA sequencing methods. Known as Sanger sequencing, this method was used to sequence the very first complete genome, one of a bacteriophage named PhiX174.

That same year, scientists Maxam and Gilbert publicised their own sequencing technique, based on the modification of DNA through the use of chemicals. However, it proved to be laborious, time consuming, and expensive, especially when compared to Sanger’s technique.

One key advantage of Sanger sequencing is that it can be automised, making for a far more efficient sequencing process. Sanger’s method was hailed as a marvel, and it is still in use even today.

DNA sequencing today

Sanger sequencing remained the primary way to sequence DNA for many years. However, with recent developments and advancements in technology, other methods are beginning to come to the fore.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, new techniques known as next-generation sequencing began to emerge. These offered benefits in terms of speed, accuracy, efficiency, and scalability, allowing for entire genomes to be sequenced at once.

Next generation sequencing has given scientists even greater power to investigate human health and genetic history, with the advent of powerful computers and software tools only working to further augment the process and make sequencing even more efficient and accurate.

The future promises to see even more treatments available for genetic diseases through the use of DNA sequencing, and scientists hope it will give us further insights into our evolutionary past.


The discovery of DNA sequencing was one of the most significant in scientific and medical history. It has offered us a never-before-seen glance into the very building blocks that make up all living things on the planet. It has come on leaps and bounds since it was first completed successfully in 1977, and the field of genomics is one tipped to significantly advance the medical profession in the future.

1 Comment

  1. This is so interesting Jenny! I recall some of this information from Biology when we learned about Watson and Crick! It’s so interesting, imagine what people could do with DNA in the future?! It could be exciting yet kind of scary!

    I just wanted to note: Rosalind Franklin also helped through her x rays but never got the recognition she deserved!

    You can learn more about her here!

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