• Question: What do you think has been the most important scientific discovery ever?

    Asked by woodlad_Scientist5 to Barbara, Matt, Ravinder, Sophie, Tristan on 9 Mar 2015.
    • Photo: Sophie Robinson

      Sophie Robinson answered on 9 Mar 2015:

      I believe it is the discovery of DNA as well as our understanding of its structure and function. The effect of the discovery of DNA on scientific and medical progress has been enormous, whether it involves the identification of our genes that trigger major diseases or the creation and manufacture of drugs to treat these devastating diseases. In fact, the identification of these genes and their subsequent analysis in terms of therapeutic treatment has ultimately influenced science and will continue to do so in the future.

      Due to our discovery of DNA, our ability to actually diagnose diseases early on has been vastly improved. In addition, we have been able to better assess a person’s genetic susceptibility to specific diseases. In doing so, we have also paved the pathway to formulate brand new drugs to treat these diseases. In fact, drugs can essentially be custom made to complement a person’s personal biochemistry and genetic makeup. For those diseases that were previously considered lethal and where treatment was either non-existent or largely unsuccessful, the discovery of DNA has essentially led to breakthrough drugs and treatments for patients with serious illnesses.
      DNA has been notably important to the field of forensic science. The discovery of DNA has meant that the guilt or innocence of a person who is investigated for a crime can be determined. It also means that scarce evidence can still yield vital clues regarding the perpetrator of a crime. Also important is that the identification of victims can occur, particularly in cases where the victim’s condition is unrecognisable to family or friends. In this sense, DNA has been important in revolutionising the entire field of forensic science. This impact is felt within the criminal justice system and contributes to the accurate safeguarding of society.

      The impact of DNA on agriculture has been a very important one because it has allowed breeders to facilitate the breeding of animals that have a better resistance to diseases. It also allows farmers to produce more nutritious produce, which has particularly important consequences in developing countries where the population subsists on a small range of staple foods that have little variety. This means that micronutrient deficiencies can be addressed in these countries.

      While the discovery of DNA has been a significant one in the twentieth century, it will continue to revolutionise medicine, agriculture, forensics, paternity and many other important fields in society today.

    • Photo: Ravinder Kanda

      Ravinder Kanda answered on 9 Mar 2015:

      I’d ay DNA too.. but then again, I work on DNA so I’m biased! I’m sure other people working on different aspects of science would say different discoveries (eg Higgs Boson)… depends on what you’re view point is and what you find interesting!

    • Photo: Barbara Shih

      Barbara Shih answered on 10 Mar 2015:

      I would also say it’s the discovery of DNA. It’s not only allowed us to undertand genetic inheritance, but also allows rapid development of new research tools. Because of the specific characteristics of DNA and RNA (A linking with T or U, C linking with G), it is much easier and quicker to develop tools to study them than it is to study proteins. On top of that, although we originally thought proteins are the molecules that carry out all the biological functions, we are now starting to recognise how some RNA molecules could also have functions!

    • Photo: Matthew Moore

      Matthew Moore answered on 11 Mar 2015:

      I’m going to have to be biased and say DNA also 😛 but more specifically, later developments allowing massive sequencing of DNA –it’s only now that we’re beginning to really see the benefits of that.

      A particular organism can have all its DNA sequenced and that DNA encodes the information required to make proteins, however many proteins have complex folds and chemical interactions so it’s difficult to predict how a protein will look just from the DNA. Once a breakthrough is made in this area, protein structure prediction, then this will be a massive deal!

      It would then become easier for example to take a bacteria, such as that which causes the plague! and design a vaccine that will work against it by identifying what the proteins on its surface look like!