Thursday, December 25, 2014

Martinus Willem Beijerinck (16 March 1851 – 1 January 1931)

Martinus Willem Beijerinck was born in Amsterdam and came from a wealthy family in which his father had failed to maintain the tradition of success.

He received his secondary education at the HBS in Haarlem and from 1868 to 1872 studied chemical technology at the Delft Polytechnic School.

While he was a teacher in various schools Beijerinck studied botany at Leiden from 1872 onwards.

In 1876 he got a job as a botany lecturer at the Higher School of Agriculture, Horticulture and Forestry in Wageningen.

Here he also had time to work on his research into plant galls, with which he gained his doctorate cum laude in 1877.

Beijerinck worked for the Netherlands Yeast and Alcohol Factory in Delft from 1887 to 1893, before returned to the Delft Polytechnic School, where he founded a new microbiology laboratory in 1897.

Beijerinck spent most of his life studying microorganisms in the soil and in crop plants. In the 1890s, several European researchers were studying a disease of tobacco plants known as tobacco mosaics disease because it cause the leaves to become mottled with light and dark spots.

In 1898 Beijerinck discovered the agent that causes the disease can pass through a laboratory filter. Since such filters retain bacteria and other known microorganisms, Beijerinck believes that the agent is a new type of organism.

Beijerinck called the mystery agent a virus, the Latin world for poison. He published his conclusion about tobacco mosaic virus in 1898.
Martinus Willem Beijerinck (16 March 1851 – 1 January 1931)

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