“A fundamental breakthrough in biological science occurred in 1977, and most biologists did not notice. The paper by Woese and Fox in 1977 was 2.5 pages in length and contained a single table of numbers that compared sequence snippets derived from small subunit rRNAs of different organisms. The table provided the first gene sequence-based quantitative assessment of phylogenetic (evolutionary) relationships between representatives of the major known kinds of organisms. The paper showed that all cellular life falls into one of three large relatedness groups: eukaryotes (our kind of cells, which contain a nuclear envelope), eubacteria [Woese and Fox termed the group and this group is where classically studied bacteria fit], and archaebacteria [an unusual group of recently described organisms named by Woese and Fox to distinguish the group from eubacteria]. In describing the phylogenetic relationships, the results also charted the first scientific view of deep evolutionary history. Both these fundamental aspects of biology, the phylogenetic structure of life and the course of early evolution, previously were only realms of speculation.”
Ribonuclease T1 oligonucleotide fingerprint.
“The paper by Woese and Fox in 1977 consisted of catalogs of oligonucleotide sequences derived from RNase T1 digestion of small subunit (SSU) rRNAs. The first step of the analysis involved resolution of RNase T1 digests of 32P-labeled rRNA by 2D electrophoresis and locating labeled oligonucleotides on the 80 × 100-cm sheet of electrophoresis paper by autoradiography. The result, an RNase T1 fingerprint of the specific RNA, is shown; notations were made by Woese during the analysis of archaeal rRNAs. Larger phylogenetically informative oligonucleotides are in the upper one-half of the pattern”
Phylogeny and beyond: Scientific, historical, and conceptual significance of the first tree of life. Norman R. Pacea, Jan Sappb, and Nigel Goldenfeld. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences January 24, 2012 vol. 109 no. 4