Lift-off procedures have been a tool researchers have been using for decades to transfer patterns when etching them just wouldn't do. In fact, the whole technique of lift-off was created by e-beam lithography researchers (including e-beam pioneer Stanford Professor Fabian Pease!) in a quest to demonstrate the capabilities of the nascent electron beam lithography field. At that time, the only dry-etch available was ion-milling which was way too destructive for delicate e-beam patterns. The process that creatively solved the intractable problem that faced early lithography researchers has grown and developed into a solution that researchers in any discipline working on the nano-scale draw inspiration from in order to make the next generations of just about everything!
Some interesting dates: