Copyright

What is Biotechnology? - Definition, History & Examples Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Interpreting Tables of Scientific Data: Practice Problems

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is Biotechnology?
  • 0:44 History of Biotechnology
  • 3:26 Some Modern Examples
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Hilary North

Hilary is a biomedical researcher with a PhD in neuroscience.

Biotechnology is a broad category and includes some surprising concepts. Learn what practices and disciplines fall under this exciting and expanding classification.

What is Biotechnology?

The term biotechnology refers to any technology, process or practice that modifies or harnesses any living organism or system to be useful to any human purpose. The word defines itself: bio means life and technology is defined as the application, or harnessing of science for a specific purpose. When you hear the word biotechnology today, you probably think about scientists working at the cutting edge with viruses and genomes in a state-of-the-art laboratory, but when you consider how many different types of life there are, and how many different types of technologies there are, you begin to realize that biotechnology is a broad category that has been around for ages!

History of Biotechnology

It is not known precisely when people began using the word biotechnology to refer to technologies based on living things. Many believe the phrase was first coined in the early 1900s by a Hungarian engineer named Károly Ereky, but the practice of biotechnology began long before that and dates back almost to the beginning of human existence. The following are examples of biotechnologies over the course of history:

Agriculture, the practice of purposefully growing plants, which are living organisms, for consumption or other use, is one of the earliest forms of biotechnology. When ancient humans began to transition from the hunter-gatherer lifestyle and settled into societies, they were able to do so by cultivating food in one place. Agricultural technology has itself evolved immensely over thousands of years, and all advancements from crop rotation, beginning in ancient Greece, to the creation of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, today relate to this type of biotechnology.

Animal husbandry, the process of housing, feeding, breeding and utilizing animals, is as much a pillar of human existence as agriculture. When humans domesticated animals to be beasts of burden such as oxen, modes of transportation such as horses, or even companions such as the dog, biotechnology was implemented.

Fermentation of beer and leavening of bread, two ancient and widespread methods of food preparation, are examples of early biotechnologies. Both processes require the use of the living organism yeast, which the ancient Chinese (7 BCE) and Egyptians (4 BCE) first utilized for these processes, respectively.

Vaccinations are one of the earliest examples of biotechnology applied to medicine. Vaccinations are the administration of a deactivated version of a virus that normally causes an illness into a healthy person. This teaches the immune system to look out for that virus in the future, and the vaccinated person becomes immune to the illness as a result. Although there is debate over whether a virus is truly 'alive,' vaccinations fall squarely under the umbrella of biotechnology. The first vaccination was developed at the turn of the 19th century to protect healthy people from smallpox.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support