Abstract Plant biotechnology is founded on the principles of cellular totipotency and genetic transformation, which can be traced back to the Cell Theory of Matthias Jakob Schleiden and Theodor Schwann, and the discovery of genetic transformation in bacteria by Frederick Griffith, respectively. On the 25th anniversary of the genetic transformation of plants, this review provides a historical account of the evolution of the theoretical concepts and experimental strategies that led to the production and commercialization of biotech (transformed or transgenic) plants expressing many useful genes, and emphasizes the beneficial effects of plant biotechnology on food security, human health, the environment, and conservation of biodiversity. In so doing, it celebrates and pays tribute to the contributions of scores of scientists who laid the foundation of modern plant biotechnology by their bold and unconventional thinking and experimentation. It highlights also the many important lessons to be learnt from the fascinating history of plant biotechnology, the significance of history in science teaching and research, and warns against the danger of the growing trends of ignoring history and historical illiteracy.
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