1948-1949 | Thungs standard reference work on virology

In 1948 Thung gave a number of guest lectures on Tropical Plant Diseases at the Agricultural College in Wageningen, at the request of Professor Quanjer. These lectures formed the basis for his book, Grondbeginselen in de plantenvirologie (Fundamentals in Plant Virology), which would eventually be published in 1949.

For years, Thung’s book was considered the (Dutch) standard reference work in phytopathology.

Striped tulips at the time of tulip mania

In Grondbeginselen in de plantenvirologie Thung also highlighted the early history of plant virology. The title page shows an image (in colour) of the 1619 ‘A Still Life of Flowers in a Wan-Li Vase’ painting by Ambrosius Bosschaert. This painting was made in the time of the tulip mania, when striped tulips like the ones painted by Bosschaert fetched record sums. The caption read: ‘Still life with virus-infected tulips’.

Thung argued that in seventeenth century Holland, healthy tulip plants were infected with diseased plants to create specific colour effects. Without knowing it, Thung argued, tulip growers had thus been actively infecting the plants with a viral disease.