[Discovery of the first virus, the tobacco mosaic virus: 1892 or 1898?]

C R Acad Sci III. 2001 Oct;324(10):929-33. doi: 10.1016/s0764-4469(01)01368-3.
[Article in French]


Two scientists contributed to the discovery of the first virus, Tobacco mosaic virus. Ivanoski reported in 1892 that extracts from infected leaves were still infectious after filtration through a Chamberland filter-candle. Bacteria are retained by such filters, a new world was discovered: filterable pathogens. However, Ivanovski probably did not grasp the full meaning of his discovery. Beijerinck, in 1898, was the first to call 'virus', the incitant of the tobacco mosaic. He showed that the incitant was able to migrate in an agar gel, therefore being an infectious soluble agent, or a 'contagium vivum fluidum' and definitively not a 'contagium fixum' as would be a bacteria. Ivanovski and Beijerinck brought unequal but decisive and complementary contributions to the discovery of viruses. Since then, discoveries made on Tobacco mosaic virus have stood out as milestones of virology history.

Publication types

  • Biography
  • English Abstract
  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Filtration
  • History, 19th Century
  • History, 20th Century
  • Plant Diseases / history*
  • Plant Diseases / virology
  • Tobacco Mosaic Virus / isolation & purification*

Personal name as subject

  • A Mayer
  • D Ivanovski
  • M Beijerinck