Bacteria, Viruses, and Protists

Virus Basics

When were bacteriophages first discovered?

Bacteriophages were discovered in the early 1900s by British scientist Frederick W. Twort (1877–1950) and French scientist Felix d’Hérelle (1873–1949). In 1915, Twort reported observing a filterable agent that destroyed bacteria growing on solid media; d’Hérelle independently confirmed the discovery in 1917. It was actually d’Hérelle who named the agent “bacteriophage.” However, very few scientists accepted these findings and the work on the growth and infectious nature of bacteriophages. It was not until the 1930s that Martin Schlesinger, a German biochemist, characterized bacteriophages, establishing their own unique place in the microbial world.


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