|Born||March 16, 1851
|Died||January 1, 1931 (aged 79)
Delft School of Microbiology (founder)
|Alma mater||Leiden University|
|Known for||Nitrogen cycle
|Notable awards||Leeuwenhoek Medal (1905)|
Martinus Willem Beijerinck (March 16, 1851 – January 1, 1931) was a Dutch microbiologist and botanist. Born in Amsterdam, Beijerinck studied at the Technical School of Delft, where he was awarded the degree of Chemical Engineer in 1872. He obtained his Doctor of Science degree from the University of Leiden in 1877. At the time, Delft, then a Polytechnic, did not have the right to confer doctorates, so Leiden did this for them. He became a teacher in microbiology at the Agricultural School in Wageningen (now Wageningen University) and later at the Polytechnische Hogeschool Delft (Delft Polytechnic, currently Delft University of Technology) (from 1895). He established the Delft School of Microbiology. His studies of agricultural and industrial microbiology yielded fundamental discoveries in the field of biology. His achievements have been perhaps unfairly overshadowed by those of his contemporaries, Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur, because unlike them, Beijerinck never studied human disease.
He is considered one of the founders of virology. In 1898, he published results on the filtration experiments demonstrating that tobacco mosaic disease is caused by an infectious agent smaller than a bacterium. His results were in accordance with the similar observation made by Dmitri Ivanovsky in 1892. Like Ivanovsky before him and Adolf Mayer, predecessor at Wageningen, Beijerinck could not culture the filterable infectious agent, however he concluded that the agent can replicate and multiply in living plants. He named the new pathogen virus to indicate its non-bacterial nature. Beijerinck asserted that the virus was somewhat liquid in nature, calling it "contagium vivum fluidum" (contagious living fluid). It was not until the first crystals of the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) obtained by Wendell Stanley in 1935, the first electron micrographs of TMV produced in 1939 and the first X-ray crystallographic analysis of TMV performed in 1941 proved that the virus was particulate.
Beijerinck also discovered nitrogen fixation, the process by which diatomic nitrogen gas is converted to ammonium ions and becomes available to plants. Bacteria perform nitrogen fixation, dwelling inside root nodules of certain plants (legumes). In addition to having discovered a biochemial reaction vital to soil fertility and agriculture, Beijerinck revealed this archetypical example of symbiosis between plants and bacteria.
Beijerinck discovered the phenomenon of bacterial sulfate reduction, a form of anaerobic respiration. He learned bacteria could use sulfate as a terminal electron acceptor, instead of oxygen. This discovery has had an important impact on our current understanding of biogeochemical cycles. Spirillum desulfuricans, the first known sulfate-reducing bacterium, was isolated and described by Beijerinck.
Beijerinck invented the enrichment culture, a fundamental method of studying microbes from the environment. He is often incorrectly credited with framing the microbial ecology idea that "everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects," which was stated by Lourens Baas Becking.
Beijerinck was a socially eccentric figure. He was verbally abusive to students, never married, and had few professional collaborations. He was also known for his ascetic lifestyle and his view of science and marriage being incompatible. His low popularity with his students periodically depressed him, as he very much loved spreading his enthusiasm for biology in the classroom.
See also 
- Chung, K. T.; Ferris, D. H. (1996). "Martinus Willem Beijerinck (1851-1931): Pioneer of General Microbiology". ASM News (Washington, D.C.: American Society For Microbiology) 62 (10): 539––543.
- Lustig, Alice; Levine, Arnold J. (1992). "One Hundred Years of Virology". Journal of Virology (Washington, D.C.: American Society for Microbiology) 66 (8): 4629––4631. ISSN 1098-5514. PMC 241285. PMID 1629947.
- Bos, L. (1995). "The Embryonic Beginning of Virology: Unbiased Thinking and Dogmatic Stagnation". Archives of Virology 140: 613––619. ISSN 03048608.
- Zaitlin, Milton (1998). "The Discovery of the Causal Agent of the Tobacco Mosaic Disease". In Kung, S. D.; Yang, S. F. Discoveries in Plant Biology. Hong Kong: World Publishing Co. pp. 105––110. ISBN 978-981-02-1313-8.
- Lerner, K. L.; Lerner, B. W., eds. (2002). World of Microbiology and Immunology. Thomas Gage Publishing. ISBN 0-7876-6540-1. "Beijerinck asserted that the virus was liquid, but this theory was later disproved by Wendell Stanley, who demonstrated the particulate nature of viruses. Beijerinck, nevertheless, set the stage for twentieth-century virologists to uncover the secrets of viral pathogens now known to cause a wide range of plant and animal (including human) diseases"
- Beijerinck, M. W. (1898). "Über ein Contagium vivum fluidum als Ursache der Fleckenkrankheit der Tabaksblätter". Verhandelingen der Koninklyke akademie van Wettenschappen te Amsterdam (in German) 65: 1––22. Translated into English in Johnson, J., Ed. (1942) Phytopathological classics. (St. Paul, Minnesota: American Phytopathological Society) No. 7, pp. 33–-52 (St. Paul, Minnesota)
- Iwanowski, D. (1892). "Über die Mosaikkrankheit der Tabakspflanze". Bulletin Scientifique publié par l'Académie Impériale des Sciences de Saint-Pétersbourg / Nouvelle Serie III (in German & Russian) (St. Petersburg) 35: 67––70. Translated into English in Johnson, J., Ed. (1942) Phytopathological classics (St. Paul, Minnesota: American Phytopathological Society) No. 7, pp. 27–-30.
- Beijerinck, M.W, 1901, Über oligonitrophile Mikroben, Centralblatt für Bakteriologie, Parasitenkunde, Infektionskrankheiten und Hygiene, Abteilung II, Vol 7, pp. 561-582
- de Wit R, Bouvier T. (2006). "Everything is everywhere, but, the environment selects’; what did Baas Becking and Beijerinck really say?". Environmental Microbiology 8 (4): 755–758. doi:10.1111/j.1462-2920.2006.01017.x. PMID 16584487. Retrieved 2008-09-16.
- Bass-Becking, Lourens G.M. (1934). Geobiologie of inleiding tot de milieukunde. The Hague: W.P. Van Stockum & Zoon