Nanotechnology is a young concept. Its short history spans 49 years year from 1959 when Richard Feynman gave a dinner speech describing molecular machines building with atomic precision. The term nanotechnology actually didnt appear until Norio Taniguchi used it fifteen years later in 1974 in a paper on ion-sputter machining. These ideas began to become technically possible in 1981 when with the recently invented scanning tunnelling microscope (STM) allowed materials to be seem at the atomic level. The STM was invented by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohder, and won them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1986.
In 1985 another key break through was made by Robert Curl, Harold Kroto, and Richard Smalley from the University of Sussex and Rice University when they discovered the fullerenes. Fullerenes are molecules composed fully of carbon which come in the form of a hollow sphere (buckyballs), ellipsoid or tube (buckytubes or carbon nanotubes). Buckytubes are a strong example of the power of nanotechnology; their distinctive molecular structure gives them amazing properties: high resistance to heat; high ductility; high tensile strength; high electrical conductivity.
In 1988 the first nanotechnology university course was taught by Eric Drexler at Stanford University. Just one year later, in 1989, the IBM logo was spelled in individual atoms using the STM like a pair of tweezers to move individual atoms. 1990 saw the first major funding of research into nanotechnology by Japans Science and Technology Agency. In 1991 the bottom-up approach was endorsed by Japans Ministry of International Trade and Industry. 1992 produced the first published nanotechnology textbook (Nanosystems: Molecular Machinery, Manufacturing, and Computation by Eric Drexler) and the first congressional testimony on nanotech. The push for nanotechnology was increasing and in 1994 the U.S. science advisor advocated continued development of nanotechnology. In 1995 the Hughes Aircraft Company predicted the great effect nanotechnology would have on military devices, with strong advances in information technology, precision guided munitions and surveillance systems. It took until 1996 for the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to begin investing in computational molecular nanotechnology. 1998 saw the first DNA based nanomechanical device, inventors Chengde Mao, Weigiong Sun, Zhiyong Shen and Nadrian C. saw this as a step towards nano robots, but as of today this goal has still not been achieved. In 1999 the first nano medicine textbook was published Nanomedicine, Vol I: Basic Capabilities by Robert A Freitas covering the uses and possible future uses on nanotech in medicine.
The United States invested a lot of money in nanotech in 2000, with Bill Clinton announcing the new U.S. National Nanotechnology Initiative, and the state of California giving its own institute 100 million dollars funding over four years. The very next year the U.S. announced their centre...