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Johann Gregor Mendel, founding father of genetics

photo:  (wikipedia.org)

Darwin’s contemporary, discoverer of the basic laws of heredity, monk and also the abbot of the St Thomas Augustinian Monastery in Brno – that would be a brief description of the prominent scientist Johann Gregor Mendel, who was born in 1822 in the village of Hynčice in the Nový Jičín Region in northern Moravia.

A talented student, Mendel graduated from his gymnázium (“Czech” grammar school) in Opava in 1840 with excellent marks and, despite his family’s financial problems, he studied philosophy for two years in Olomouc. In the end, he coped with the complicated situation and questions of financial provision during his studies by entering the Augustinian Monastery in Brno. In 1843, he accepted the monastic name Gregor and, after finishing his theological studies, carried on studying natural sciences at university in Vienna. When he returned, Johann Gregor Mendel became a physics and science teacher at the German technical secondary school in Brno. He began engaging himself in the study of botany and meteorology. He carried out experiments with crossbreeding plants (peas) and carefully noted everything he learned. On basis of these notes, he determined a set of rules clarifying heredity, which are known today as the laws of Mendelian Inheritance.

He published the results of his experiments in his book Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden (Experiments on Plant Hybridization) in 1866. However, his work did not raise much interest at the time and was forgotten. He sadly only gained the title as the “father of genetics” due to his experiments with peas after his death.

Mendel was engaged in a wide range of natural sciences from crossbreeding, arboriculture or pomology to astronomy and apiculture. He carried out regular meteorological observations for the Meteorological Institute in Vienna from 1862 until succumbing to illness. Nine out of the thirteen Mendel publications are concerned with meteorology. 

Mendel’s contribution to biology was recognised after his death, at the beginning of the 20th century (he died in 1884 at the age of 62). Not only did he set the basis of genetics and define the principles now known as the laws of Mendelian Inheritance, he was also the first to use biostatistic methods in his work. A museum, university, square in Brno and the first Czech science station in Antarctica all bear his name.
Author: Romana Kuncová
Added: 02.11.2012

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