Happy 200th Birthday, Gregor Mendel
On this day 200 years ago, Johann Mendel was born. He would come to be known as Gregor (the religious name he received upon entering St. Thomas’s Abbey in Austria-Hungary as an Augustinian Friar) and later as the “father of modern genetics.”
Mendel studied math, physics, and eventually botany in school. While conducting experiments breeding hybridized pea plants in the monastery garden and greenhouse, he discovered the principles of heredity. As one article on his life explains:
He chose to study the inheritance of seven traits (seed shape, seed coat tint, flower color, flower location, pod shape, unripe pod color, and plant height). Altogether Mendel grew and tested about 28,000 plants. He discovered mathematical patterns in the inheritance of these traits, which he explained in terms of two laws (the “Law of Segregation” and the “Law of Independent Assortment”), which are now called Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance.
Mendel developed a theory involving what he called dominant and recessive “factors”—what would come to be known as “genes.” This work paved the way for all future research in the genetic sciences, including the discovery of DNA. But his contributions would not be recognized in his lifetime.
In 1866, Mendel published the results of his experiments. The paper received little attention. In 1868 he was named abbot (head monk) of his monastery, and his research gave way to administrative obligations. In 1884, he died.
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