The Virus Finder
November 9, 1864
Today is the birthday of the Russian Botanist Dmitri Ivanovsky.
In 1892, Dmitry researched the cause of an infection called “Wildfire” in tobacco plants in Crimea. Dmitry made a startling discovery when he learned that even after running through a filter, sap from an infected plant could still infect healthy plants. Dmitry’s testing led to the realization that the cause was something smaller than bacteria. Years later, Martinus Beijerinck ("BY-ah-rink”) would call the filtered, infectious substance a "virus,” and Dmitry’s infection is now known as the tobacco mosaic virus.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we owe a debt of gratitude to botanists like Dmitry Ivanovsky and Martinus Beijerinck ("BY-ah-rink”) and all the rest of the virology pioneers.