He was an Augustinian monk. His name was Gregor Mendel. He strolled in the monastery garden of the Abbey of St. Thomas of Brno, Margrave of Moravia. Today it is Brno, Czech Republic. In 1856 he was 34 years old. This is the story of Mendel, the father of modern genetics.
At that time he was cultivating Pisum sativum, better known as peas or peas. He did it out of curiosity. He wanted to know how properties were carried over from one generation to the next. So he set about investigating patterns of inheritance.
Genetics and arithmetic
Peas are ideal: fast life cycle and the production of many seeds. They can also self-fertilize and fertilize the female flowers with the pollen from the male flowers of the same plant. The technique is used to get a pure line. But Gregor Mendel did something that no one else had done.
“His great advantage was being the first biologist to count things. Others were interested in inheritance. Mendel found that he could use simple arithmetic laws to record how certain features passed from one generation to the next. ‘It is told by Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College London.
This enabled him to derive the main principles of inheritance. He separated the plants that produced wrinkled peas from the smooth and shiny ones, those with white flowers from the purple ones, and so on. He cultivated each one separately from generation to generation until he obtained pure specimens. For example, one line where they were all big and another where they were all small.
Then he started crossing them and recording how the traits were inherited. He found that there were very similar patterns for all seven traits. He found that one characteristic – how to be tall – always hid another in the first generation – a small one – to be short. He called her. The visible was the dominant feature; the hidden, the recessive feature.
Ignored and celebrated
So Mendel slowly and systematically worked out the basic law of inheritance. And stumbled upon what would later be described as the basic unit of life itself … the gene. In 1865 he presented the results to the Brno Natural History Society. They had the title: “Experiments on Plant Hybridization”. Nobody paid any attention to him.
In 1868 Mendel became abbot of his monastery and largely put his scientific activities aside. He died in 1884. I didn’t know he was going to become a legend.
Later, the union of Mendel and Charles Darwin, a perfect couple who never met, gave birth to the Darwinian evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s. Mendel’s laws of inheritance could explain natural selection. This made the beneficial properties more common and eliminated the negatives. Mendel, the father of modern genetics, has just been recognized.
His brief treatise was considered one of the triumphs of the human mind. It’s a great example of scientific experimentation and deep data penetration.
Gregor Mendel had a strange fate. He was destined to lead a life of painful flesh and blood in Brno. And one more thing, the intellectual life he’d dreamed of for the next century.