Corona Chronicles

This online exhibition looks at the current pandemic from a historical perspective, in collaboration with the Delft School of Microbiology Archives at the Delft Science Centre.

Illustration of a coronavirus
Tobacco leaves infected with tobacco mosaic virus (TMV)

Tobacco Mosaic Virus (TMV), which causes Tobacco Mosaic Disease, was the first virus to be recognized as an infectious biological agent smaller than even bacteria. This part of the exhibition is about how the Tobacco Mosaic disease led to important research on viruses, and the key players in this story.

Mayer, Ivanovski and Beijerinck

Martinus W. Beijerinck is often called the Father of Virology because of his important contribution to the discovery of the TMV. After he published his work, he recognized that his work was built on the work of two other scientists, namely Adolf Mayer and Dmitry Ivanovski.

Delft School of Microbiology, Beijerinck Collection
Chamberland filters

After becoming Professor of Microbiology at the Delft Polytechnic (now Delft University of Technology) in 1897, Beijerinck repeated his previous experiment.


Martinus Beijerinck is often called the Father of Virology, as he realised the infectious agent  was biological  rather than chemical, and self-replicating, but too small to be bacterial.

Beijerinck’s laboratory journal
An electron micrograph of TMV

Beijerinck's laboratories

Eventually, Beijerinck became the first Professor of Microbiology at the Department of General Microbiology at Delft's Polytechnic (now Delft University of Technology). The lab of that department opened in 1895 and Beijerinck worked there until his retirement in 1921, when he was succeeded as Professor by Albert Jan Kluyver.


Beijerinck began his scientific life as a teacher of botany at an agricultural school in Wageningen.

Take a tour of a reconstruction of Beijerinck's office

The foundation stones for what later became known as microbiology and applied botany, and only much later biotechnology, were laid in a room looking just like this one. The furniture was made for Beijerinck in the late 19th-century and later used by Albert Jan Kluyver. The room also holds equipment from Gerrit van Iterson. The office of a professor teaching at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries would have served many different purposes. Usually it held not only a reference library, teaching and writing equipment, but it also sometimes functioned as a meeting room and simple lab. It was perfectly normal for scientists to carry out experiments in their offices. For that reason, in addition to the books and papers, you can see microscopes, weighing scales and chemicals in some of the cupboards. In the beginning of Beijerincks tenure, there was no electricity in the buildings and the professors used gas light. Therefore much of the equipment has been adjusted to work in low light circumstances. Enjoy your visit!

Science Centre Delft