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Looking Back at 1990-1993.
Our next stop down memory lane is the dawn of the 20th century’s final decade—the 1990s. Owning a pair of Doc Martens was all the rage and you could buy a brand-new Chrysler New Yorker for around $16,500. The early ’90s saw events from the collapse of the Soviet Union to Michael Jordan completing his first three-peat of NBA championships.
Name your favorite music genre—odds are it was represented by a Billboard Hot 100 single in the ’90s. Considered to be a melting pot of music, the decade kicked off with Wilson Phillips’ “Hold On” claiming the distinction of Billboard’s top single in 1990. The first year of the decade also saw Mariah Carey, Vanilla Ice, and Bon Jovi earn their first No. 1 songs. Vanilla Ice’s hit “Ice Ice Baby” was the first rap song to ever top the charts in the US.
In pop culture, Nirvana’s debut single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” took younger generations by storm. When Rolling Stone’s “best song of the ’90s” hit airwaves in 1991, it challenged the norms of society, bringing with it fashion choices such as grungy flannel, ripped jeans, and anything with metal studs—all remaining staples throughout the decade. Speaking of ripped jeans and studs, John Stamos and the rest of the Full House cast began their run of six consecutive seasons within Nielsen ratings’ top-30 TV shows.
Outside the world of entertainment, the Hubble Space Telescope was launched with space shuttle Discovery in April 1990. Five astronauts accompanied the first-ever space telescope into orbit, at a cost of nearly $1.5 billion. 1990 also saw the reunification of Germany following the fall of the Berlin Wall late the previous year. East and West Germany had been separated for 45 years until a unification treaty was ratified that September.
1991, however, was greeted by escalating tensions in the Middle East. On Jan. 16, then-president George H.W. Bush announced the start of Operation Desert Storm, deploying troops into Kuwait to expel Iraqi forces who had invaded and annexed the country just months earlier. More than 900,000 troops from two dozen countries were positioned in the region. After 42 days, Bush declared a cease-fire.
In August 1992, the US experienced its most costly natural disaster to that point in Hurricane Andrew. The storm made landfall on US soil in Florida on Aug. 23 as a Category 5. It brought sustained winds of 165 miles per hour and gusts of up to 200. Dissipating in the Appalachian Mountains on Aug. 28, Andrew had caused around $35 billion in damage.
A few months later, Bill Clinton was elected the 42nd US president, defeating incumbent Bush.
In the summer of 1993, the world was introduced to one of the most popular films ever produced,Jurassic Park. At the time, it was the highest grossing movie ever until a flick called Titanic hit cinemas four years later. Just months prior, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications released the Mosaic web browser—the first browser that could display images. It is considered a key milestone en route to the World Wide Web truly becoming “worldwide.”
Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” was the far-and-away hit single of 1993; it spent 14 weeks at No.1, a mark only eclipsed once the rest of the decade.
In healthcare and pharma, the Human Genome Project (HGP) began in 1990. Considered one of the greatest feats of exploration in history, the project set out to sequence and map out the entire human genome. Eventually completed over a decade later, the HGP enabled the ability to read the complete genetic blueprint of human beings. Also in 1990, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was jointly awarded to Joseph E. Murray and E. Donnall Thomas “for their discoveries concerning organ and cell transplantation in the treatment of human disease.” Later, in 1992, the smart pill was introduced. First created for use in the GI tract, it could be electronically tracked and instructed to deliver a drug to a predetermined location.
Science’s feats from the early ’90s are still valuable today. The work of the HGP has arguably never shined brighter than it is right now as COVID-19 vaccines using DNA sequencing are being rolled out to the public. Murray and Thomas’ work is still evident—around 50,000 bone marrow transplants are performed globally each year. And the smart pill remains an integral part of gastroenterology, aiding doctors in diagnosing intestinal diseases.
Andy Studna is an Assistant Editor for Pharm Exec. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.