Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gregor Mendel and the Rules of Inheritance

Gregor Mendel
(1822 – 1884)
On February 8, 1865, German-speaking Silesian scientist and Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel publishes his "Versuche über Pflanzenhybride" (Experiments on Plant Hybridization) in which he describes his experiments with peas, which later became the foundation of the so-called Mendelian inheritance of genetics.

Mendel grew up in a farmer's family and cultivated bees from early ages. In the 1840s, Mendel enrolled at the university, but soon gave up his study due to financial issues to become a monk. At the St Thomas's Abbey in Brno, Mendel continued his biological research and soon was appointed teacher at a local school. In the following period, the young scientist moved to Vienna in order to study physics with Christian Doppler and anatomy with Franz Unger.

While living at the Abby, Mendel started his first systematic crossing attempts with peas around 1856. He observed their properties and chose the one's that were easily to differentiate. Mendel managed to grow over 12000 hybrids and was able to describe his discoveries on the splitting of their characteristics. He settled on studying seven traits that seemed to inherit independently of other traits: seed shape, flower color, seed coat tint, pod shape, unripe pod color, flower location, and plant height. Until 1863, Mendel grew 28000 plants and established his today well known Rules of Inheritance. His scientific publication followed in 1865, but unfortunately Mendel's remarkable research results remained almost unknown for several years. Mendel gave lectures about his findings and even sent his publications to several scientists. He started communicating with the Swiss botanist Carl Wilhelm von Nägeli, who unfortunately did not recognize the importance of Mendel's achievements.

Around 1900, several scientists from across Europe performed similar experiments and came to the same conclusion as Gregor Mendel, and his reputation grew posthumously. It was finally noticed, how important Mendel's experiments and his very accurately performed statistical analysis were. It was also noticed how important Mendel's findings were in order to support Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

At yovisto, you may be interested in the video lecture Mendel, Hardy, Weinberg by Mike Moser at Berkeley.



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