Gregor Mendel

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Gregor Mendel bigraphy, stories - Genetics

Gregor Mendel : biography

20 July 1822 – 6 January 1884

Gregor Johann Mendel (July 20, 1822July 20 is his birthday; often mentioned is July 22, the date of his baptism. – January 6, 1884) was a German-speaking Silesian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance. The profound significance of Mendel’s work was not recognized until the turn of the 20th century, when the independent rediscovery of these laws initiated the modern science of genetics.

Biography

Gregor Mendel was born into an ethnic German family in Heinzendorf bei Odrau, Austrian Silesia, Austrian Empire (now Hynčice, Czech Republic). He was the son of Anton and Rosine (Schwirtlich) Mendel, and had one older sister (Veronica) and one younger (Theresia). They lived and worked on a farm which had been owned by the Mendel family for at least 130 years.Gregor Mendel, Alain F. Corcos, Floyd V. Monaghan, Maria C. Weber "Gregor Mendel’s Experiments on Plant Hybrids: A Guided Study", Rutgers University Press, 1993. During his childhood, Mendel worked as a gardener, studied beekeeping, and as a young man attended gymnasium in Opava. From 1840 to 1843, he studied practical and theoretical philosophy as well as physics at the University of Olomouc Faculty of Philosophy, taking a year off because of illness.

When Mendel entered the Faculty of Philosophy, the Department of Natural History and Agriculture was headed by Johann Karl Nestler, who conducted extensive research of hereditary traits of plants and animals, especially sheep. In 1843 Mendel began his training as a priest. Upon recommendation of his physics teacher Friedrich Franz, he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas in Brno in 1843. Born Johann Mendel, he took the name Gregor upon entering religious life. In 1851 he was sent to the University of Vienna to study under the sponsorship of Abbot C. F. Napp. At Vienna, his professor of physics was Christian Doppler. Mendel returned to his abbey in 1853 as a teacher, principally of physics, and by 1867, he had replaced Napp as abbot of the monastery.

Besides his work on plant breeding while at St Thomas’s Abbey, Mendel also bred bees in a bee house that was built for him, using bee hives that he designed. He also studied astronomy and meteorology, founding the ‘Austrian Meteorological Society’ in 1865. The majority of his published works were related to meteorology.

Experiments on plant hybridization

Gregor Mendel, who is known as the "father of modern genetics", was inspired by both his professors at the University of Olomouc (i.e. Friedrich Franz & Johann Karl Nestler) and his colleagues at the monastery (e.g., Franz Diebl) to study variation in plants, and he conducted his study in the monastery’s experimental garden, which was originally planted by Napp in 1830. Between 1856 and 1863 Mendel cultivated and tested some 29,000 pea plants (i.e., Pisum sativum). This study showed that one in four pea plants had purebred recessive alleles, two out of four were hybrid and one out of four were purebred dominant. His experiments led him to make two generalizations, the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment, which later came to be known as Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance.

Mendel presented his paper, Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden (Experiments on Plant Hybridization), at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in Moravia in 1865. It was received favorably and generated reports in several local newspapers. When Mendel’s paper was published in 1866 in Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereins Brünn,Mendel, J.G. (1866). Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines in Brünn, Bd. IV für das Jahr, 1865 Abhandlungen:3–47. For the English translation, see: it was seen as essentially about hybridization rather than inheritance and had little impact and was cited about three times over the next thirty-five years. (Notably, Charles Darwin was unaware of Mendel’s paper, according to Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man.) His paper was criticized at the time, but is now considered a seminal work.