26 MARCH 1954, Page 34

THIS is a book about viruses and the diseases they

cause. One of its authors, Dr. Smith, is a world authority on the subject; Dr. Markham is one of his co-workers at Cambridge. Mysterious and malign, on the fringes of the beginnings of life, behaving partly like chemicals and partly like organ- isms, viruses play an all-too-important part in human economy and the balance of nature. Infantile paralysis, influenza and foot-and-mouth are some of the more dangerous animal diseases they cause; among plants they are equally noxious and widespread. One of several potato viruses, for example, causes annual world losses of at least 800 million bushels.

It is only about sixty years since the existence of viruses was proved; and only during the last thirty years, with the develop- ment of the electron microscope and special biochemical techniques, has real knowledge of their nature been accumulated. Not the least fascinating part of the book recounts these scientific detections and deductions. Inevitably technical but (apart from some careless punctuation) readily understandable, the book will give the intelligent layman a clear idea of the nature and menace of viruses. There are a number df illustrations, including some of the best electron micrographs I have seen.

A. J. ii•