1959- the theory of nanotechnology was first proposed by Richard Feynman at Caltech University during his famous speech, "There's Plenty of Room at the Bottom," in which Feynman discussed the matter of manipulating things atom by atom. He suggested that ultimately, it would be possible to build tiny machines down at the molecular level itself.
1981- the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM) was invented by Gerd Binnig and Heinrich Rohrer at IBM's Zurich Research Labs. It used to observe molecules and atoms.
1989-John Foster of IBM Almaden Labs was able to spell out, "IBM" by using the Scanning Tunneling Microscope (STM). Using 35 xenon atoms, Foster was able to push the atoms into place on a nickel surface of three nanometers.