The Discovery of Bacteriophage and the d’Herelle Controversy

  • Milton W. TaylorEmail author


Bacteriophage (bacterial viruses) were discovered independently by two scientists, Frederick Twort and Felix d’Herelle, in 1915 and 1917. D’Herelle went on to carry out an in-depth study of these viruses, including replication and adaptation, and he proposed their possible use in anti-bacterial treatment. He called this area of research “bacteriophagy.” This research should be considered the beginning of molecular biology. D’Herelle was a very controversial character and had difficulty with the scientific establishment accepting his ideas and results, as they doubted the existence of bacteriophage and the concept of phage therapy. The opposite view was that lysis by bacteriophage was the result of autocatalysis. During this period, an institute of phage therapy was established in the Soviet Republic of Georgia by Giorgi Eliava, a colleague of d’Herelle’s at the Pasteur Institute. D’Herelle was invited to work at the institute but Eliava was executed during a purge shortly after its opening in 1937.


Tobacco Mosaic Virus Typhoid Fever Pasteur Institute Yersinia Pestis Phage Therapy 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA

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