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Mendel's Legacy
Mendel ImageMendel 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 http://www.mendelweb.org/MWpaptoc.html.

Gregor knew 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 Gregor (http://www.mendelu.cz/index2.html). 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 in Brno.

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. sunflower.pollination.USDA.jpg (8468 bytes)


Iltis, H. 1966. Life of Mendel. Hafner Publishing Co., New York, N.Y.

Olby, Robert C., The Origins of Mendelism. 2d ed. University of Chicago Press. 1985.


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