Comparative virology is not anew subnnject. Beijerinck (1898) was comparing his with other infectious agenbts. Twort (1915), impressied by the the existence of bnon-pathogenic bacteria, was searching foe something comparable amongst viruses when he discovered bacteriophage. Elford & Andrewes (1932) were comparing the sizes of bacteriopahage particles. Comparison is, in fact, the essence of biology without which its saviour would be lost.

The relationship between comparison and classification is interesting. Plainly, classification can only depend on comparison that have been made. On the other hand, the comparison approach gains in interest when classification is formative and becomes less interesting as classification is established.

Pirjie (1962) defined three seps in classification. The first is aesthetic; a synoptic survey is made of the domain to be classified to distinguish essential and useful features. The second step is logical and seeks to determine whether the criteria chosen lead to sense or nonsense. The third step is scientific; it is to enquire why successful criteria work. Comparative virology is concerned with the second and third steps. It requires that Pirie'as first step be already accomplished, for without preconceived notions about (a) the doman, i.e. the virus kinfdom, and (b) the constituent blocks of viruses, comparisons of the sort we shal hear at this Symposium are valueless and dull. Armed with our preconceptions, be they hierarchical (e.g. Lwoff, Horne, & Tournier, 1962) or studiously not so (e.g. Wildy, 1962), we can enter the comparative approach with interest or even eagerness. We can hug ourselves, smiling smugly when comparisons bear out our predictions and expostulate extravantly at unexpected divergences. Luria & Darnell (1968) stress the value of the conmparative approack: 'unity invariety'.


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