Definition of Beijerinck, Martinus W.

Reviewed on 6/3/2021

Beijerinck, Martinus W.: (1851-1931) Dutch microbiologist who was the first person to use the term "virus" for the invisible disease-causing material that he showed to be self-replicating. He originated selective culture techniques, also known as enrichment culturing, and was the first to isolate a wide range of microorganisms.

Educated at the Delft Technical School and the University of Leiden (Ph.D. 1899), Beijerinck taught in agricultural schools, worked in the Netherlands Yeast and Alcohol Manufactory (1884-95), and taught at the Technical School in Delft (1895-1921). His research on the biology of gall wasps and gall formation in 1882 led to the theory of ontogeny in higher plants and animals as being controlled by a series of growth enzymes that become active in fixed succession.

Beijerinck made major contributions to microbiology by developing the enrichment culture technique, simultaneously with Sergey Winogradsky, which permits the isolation of highly specialized microorganisms. In studying tobacco mosaic disease, Beijerinck concluded that the filterable pathogen was a "contagium vivum fluidum," a term he coined to convey his concept of a living infectious agent in a fluid (noncellular) form -- a revolutionary idea at a time when life and cellularity were thought to be inextricably connected.


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