The discovery of the tobacco mosaic virus.

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A virus is a biological agent that infects all types of living things, from animals to plants.

  • In an article published in 1892, the Russian botanist Dmitri Iosifovich Ivanovsky described the isolation and discovery of a biological agent that was smaller than bacteria. He used a filter (Chamberland filter) to filter out bacteria from a solution. The filter has fine pores made of porcelain (ceramic material) that are too small for bacteria to pass through. This is what a Chamberland filter looks like:


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  • Dmitri Ivanovsky used the filter on the sap of tobacco plants infected with the “Tobacco mosaic” virus. Although Dmitri Ivanovksy isolated the virus, he did not acknowledge it to be a different type of organism. He incorrectly assumed it to be a bacterial toxin.

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  • In 1892, the Dutch microbiologist and botanist Martinus Beijerinck repeated Dmitri’s experiment on the infected tobacco plants and concluded that they were infected with a microorganism that was not bacteria. He named this microorganism “virus” from the Latin word vīrus meaning “poison”. This is what tobacco mosaic virus looks like:

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  • Here is a painting of Dmitri Ivanovsky:

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  • And this is what Martinus Beijerinck looked like:

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