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Gregor Mendel

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Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)

Gregor Johann Mendel (Born::July 20, 1822Died::January 6, 1884) was a German-Austrian Augustinian Catholic priest, creationist, and scientist who is often called the "father of genetics" for his study of the inheritance of biological traits in pea plants. Mendel showed that the inheritance of traits follows particular laws, which were later named after him.


Born Johann Mendel, on July 20, 1822, in a German-speaking family of Heinzendorf in Silesia, part of the Austrian Empire (now Hynčice in the Czech Republic) and was baptized 2 days later, he took the name Gregor upon entering monastic life. During his childhood Mendel worked as a gardener, and as a young man attended the Philosophical Institute in Olomouc. In 1843 he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno. In 1847 he was ordained as a priest. In 1851 he was sent to the University of Vienna to study, returning to his abbey in 1853 as a teacher, principally of physics.

Gregor Mendel, who is known as the "father of genetics", was inspired by both his professors at university and his colleagues at the monastery to study variation in plants. He commenced his study in his monastery's experimental garden. Between 1856 and 1863 Mendel cultivated and tested some 28,000 pea plants. His experiments brought forth two generalizations which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Inheritance. Mendel read his paper, "Experiments on Plant Hybridization", at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in Moravia in 1865. When Mendel's paper was published in 1866 in Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brunn, it had little impact and was cited about three times over the next thirty-five years.

Elevated as abbot in 1868, his scientific work largely ended as Mendel became consumed with his increased administrative responsibilities, especially a dispute with the civil government over their attempt to impose special taxes on religious institutions. [1]

Mendel died on January 6, 1884, in Brno, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), from chronic nephritis.

Life Work

Mendel is best known for his discovery of the laws of inheritance. His study originated with his curiosity as to how plants obtained atypical characteristics. On one of his frequent walks around the monastery, he found an atypical variety of an ornamental plant. He took it and planted it next to the typical variety. He grew their progeny side by side to see if there would be any approximation of the traits passed on to the next generation. This experiment was "designed to support or to illustrate Lamarck's views concerning the influence of environment upon plants." He found that the plants' respective offspring retained the essential traits of the parents, and therefore were not influenced by the environment. Thus, with this experiment, he refuted the theory of Lamarckian evolution which was popular at the time.

Through further experimentation with pea plants, Mendel developed the three laws of Mendelian inheritance. Mendel's experiments unambiguously showed that while variation occurred within species, it only occurred within limits. In documented lectures, he refuted the theory of evolution, stating that the laws of inheritance did not permit limitless change, but only permitted change within definite parameters.

Mendel lived at the same time as Charles Darwin, but Darwin never read his work. Darwin's theories were composed without knowledge of the rules of inheritance, and in direct opposition to them.

The significance of Mendel's work was not recognized until the turn of the 20th century. Its rediscovery prompted the foundation of genetics. However, because Euro-American society at the time was so enamored with Darwin's speculations, Mendel's science was largely ignored. It was not until the early 20th century that the importance of his ideas was realized. The period that followed was known as the Eclipse of Darwinism, when Darwin's theory of evolution came to be seen as irrelevant in light of the observable, quantifiable laws of inheritance which falsified it.

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