he was 21, Johann decided to become a monk and dedicate his life
to religious contemplation and scientific research. Like many young
men of his time, Johann (now Gregor) found security and happiness
in the life of a monastery. Four years later, he was ordained a
priest. He attended the University of Vienna to study science and
mathematics before returning to the monastery. His duties at first
included ministering to dying people in the hospital, but this was
so stressful for Gregor that his superiors assigned him to teaching
He took a leave of absence in 1851 to attend the
University of Vienna, where he wanted to study to become a teacher.
However, he apparently flunked the elementary teacher's examination.
But he returned to the monastery and became a teacher anyway, teaching
math and natural science.
As a teacher, Gregor became an immediate success
and was very popular with both staff and students. As a researcher,
Gregor puttered around in a garden, and as we will see, Gregor more
or less invented the science of genetics.
But Gregor's goal was not to found genetics. In
college, his botany teachers impressed him with Darwin's recently announced theory of evolution. This set Gregor
to thinking more deeply about how things worked in the selective
breeding of plants and animals that was practiced by farmers in
his home village and throughout the region. In particular, he wanted
to know more about if and how new species might be created from
mating parents of different characteristics. He never created any
new species, but he did create many different
strains of the same species by cross breeding various kinds of peas
in his monastery garden.