A virtual exhibition dedicated to Dmitry Ivanovsky was opened on the website of the M. Gorky Scientific Library of St Petersburg University. He was a microbiologist and plant physiologist, and a University scholar. Visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the history of the discovery of viruses, as well as look through the very first study that laid the foundation for virology.

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In the late 1880s, while working on the study of tobacco diseases, the scientist found that the plant is affected by two diseases of a completely different nature. One of them is caused by the smallest epiphyte, the cause of the second was more difficult to establish. Dmitry Ivanovsky drew attention to the fact that even the carefully filtered juice of a diseased plant holds the ability to infect. He suggested the reason as being either the smallest bacteria or the toxin secreted by them. The tobacco mosaic virus itself, which causes this disease, was first seen by biologists only in 1939 after the invention of the electron microscope.

At the St Petersburg University exhibition, you will see the works of Dmitry Ivanovsky including the world's first study on virology. You will also find out what other researches were carried out by the famous microbiologist, and what courses he taught at St Petersburg University.


In 1892, Dmitry Ivanovsky made a report ‘On Two Diseases of Tobacco’ at the Academy of Sciences, and he published an article under the same name in the journal ‘Agriculture and Forestry’. Its short version in German was also published in the Proceedings of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St Petersburg. Later, in 1899, the Dutch botanist Martinus Beijerinck recognised Ivanovsky’s priority and confirmed his results. He proposed the term ‘virus’ (from the Latin virus – ‘poison’) to define a pathogen extracted from a filtrate. It was 1892 that began to be considered the year of the discovery of viruses.

Only in 1935, the American virologist and biochemist Wendell Stanley isolated the crystalline tobacco mosaic virus. He investigated the very structures in the cells of the tobacco leaf that had been once described by Dmitry Ivanovsky. In 1946 at a Nobel lecture he reminded the world of the merits of his Russian predecessor, and the term ‘Ivanovsky crystals’ became ingrained in virology.