published a now-famous research report in 1865 in the Journal of the Brünn
Society of Natural Science. This was not a mainstream scientific
journal, and the paper went generally unnoticed and unappreciated by
the scientific world.
Another thing that kept Mendel's discoveries from being appreciated
was that at that time, nobody knew anything about the physical basis
for heredity. Mendel was only able to document some of the main
principles of heredity with abstract mathematics.
A copy of the
original paper is at
he had discovered fundamental principles and was most depressed
because he could not persuade others of his conclusions. And he
never received recognition is his lifetime. He died in obscurity
in 1884. It took 35 years before three competing botanists had discovered
Gregor's manuscripts and realized that their own research had to
be interpreted in the light of Gregor's data and conclusions. In
1900, they christened Gregor's conclusions as "Mendel's Laws."
Today, a university in Brno is named in honor of
There is not much of a memorial today to Gregor's pea garden in
the courtyard of the monastery. All that remains is a small museum,
the stone foundation of the garden hothouse, a grass yard, and a
lone sycamore tree. But a group of researchers has drafted ambitious
plans to build a major modern genetics center and research institute
What a fitting tribute this would be to Gregor. This
would also overcome the stigma that was imposed on the science of
Czechoslovakia by the Russian Communists who banned the teaching and
practice of Mendelian genetics. The Communists, believing that all
humans were perfectible from experience and teaching, insisted that
personal traits were acquired only from the environment and personal
experience. Scientists who talked about genes and Mendel's laws were
often banished to prisons in Siberia.
Today, all the world knows that Gregor was right.
Not only that, but all the miracles of modern genetic engineering
that are now unfolding would not be possible had it not been for
those simple experiments that Gregor conducted in his pea garden.
|Modern day research still uses
some of Mendel's original approaches. Here, U.S. Department
of Agriculture scientists are pollinating sunflowers to selective
breed plants that produce certain kinds of oils.
Iltis, H. 1966. Life of Mendel. Hafner Publishing Co., New York,
Olby, Robert C., The Origins of Mendelism. 2d ed. University of
Chicago Press. 1985.