Biography Of Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel (1822 – 1884)
Augustinian Friar, Abbot, Gregor Mendel is most well-known for his pioneering work in genetics and plant breeding. His experiments with different pea varieties illustrated the laws of heredity and genetics. These laws were later very influential in the development and improvement of animal and plant species. Mendel was the first to emphasize the importance of dominant and recessive genes. This explains why certain traits, such as color, can be lost over time but later appear.
Mendel published his work in 1866. However, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that his laws were rediscovered. He was then widely known in the scientific community. His Augustinian Friar publication of his results was met with little interest and his significance was lost on most of his contemporaries. Mendel was a pioneer of his time.
Gregor Mendel was born on 20 July 1822 in Hyncice (then part of the Austrian Empire, now the modern Czech Republic). Mendel’s parents were farmers, and he was raised on the family farm. There he learned beekeeping and gardening. He attended Opava school, then philosophy, physics, and finally the University of Olomouc. His studies were marred by poor health and insufficient funds. He chose to become a friar partly because he didn’t have enough money. This allowed him to get a free education.
Mendel was ordained a priest at the Augustinian St Thomas’s Abbey, Brno. He was also a substitute teacher. However, he failed two times the oral portion of the exams which led to him being denied a teaching certificate. His teachers at the University and C.F. Napp encouraged Mendel to begin studying variation in plant breeding. Mendel was granted free reign over the monastery’s extensive (5-acre) gardens. Although Mendel wasn’t the first person to cross-breed animals and plants, he brought a systematic approach to the process. He also kept a detailed record of every year’s characteristics. He cultivated 28,000 plants between 1856-1863, most of which were the common garden pea. One of his most remarkable discoveries was the predictable mixing of traits that resulted from breeding two different varieties. Two of the four hybrids were found. One of the four hybrids had a recessive trait and one of the four had a dominant trait.
Regressive traits are when a color disappears from the parent plant but could return in the next generation. This means that even though a plant may produce yellow seeds, the genetic factor that will enable blue seeds in future generations is still present. These genetic traits were called ‘factors’ by Mendel, as genetics was not yet known. The breeding of different varieties was based on trial and error up until Mendel. Mendel made two generalizations thanks to his careful recording.
The Law of Independent Assortment and the Law of Segregation. These laws were later referred to as Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance.
“When two plants that are constantly different in one or more traits are crossed, their traits are transmitted unchanged to hybrids and their progeny as many experiments have shown; a pair with differing traits on the other side are combined in the hybrid to create a new trait which is usually subject to changes in hybrids’ progeny.” Gregor Mendel
Biography Of Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel (1993), Alain F. Corcos and Floyd V. Monaghan (1993). “Gregor Mendel’s Experiments on Plant Hybrids – A Guided Study”, p.69 Rutgers University Press
The common belief at the time was that cross-breeding two varieties would result in a mixture of different characteristics, and the new plant would then ‘average’ its characteristics.
Mendel published “Experiments on Plant Hybridization” in his paper at the Natural History Society of Brno on February 8th and March 8th, 1865. Although it received some local attention, the scientific community largely ignored it, as they did not recognize the importance of the new work on inheritance, and genetics. While Charles Darwin was constructing his theory on natural selection and evolution, he tried to create his theory about genetics. This was called pangenesis. Genetics could have helped Darwin’s theories if Darwin had known about Mendel’s work.
Mendel did initial work on breeding mice. However, his bishop was against studying animal mating so this was dropped. Although he also tried to cross bees, the results did not survive. Mendel was a passionate gardener and was also very dedicated to his bees. Even though some people complained about their aggressive behavior,
Mendel’s work was largely forgotten after publication and he became discouraged at the inability to be accepted. Mendel had a correspondence with Carl Naegeli, a biologist. However, Naegeli was unable to appreciate Mendel’s work.
Mendel was appointed abbot of the monastery in 1867. This added administrative burden gave him more responsibility. The civil government’s attempts to impose new taxes upon religious orders was a testing case. Because of his work at the monastery and his inability to receive his ideas, he stopped working on plant breeding in his later years. However, he is reported to have said that my time would come.
“My scientific studies have given me great satisfaction; I am certain that the entire world will soon acknowledge the results of my work.” Gregor Mendel
Mendel, who was 61 years old, died in Brno (now the Czech Republic) on 6 January 1884. An inflammation of the kidneys caused his death.
Biography Of Gregor Mendel
1900 and the Rediscovery of Mendel’s Work
Mendel’s work was largely unknown for 16 years. In 1900, Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and Carl Correns did independent research on inheritance and reproduced Mendel’s results. Reading Mendel’s theories and work may have helped them understand their results. They published similar results and gave credit to Mendel’s original work. Three researchers published the rediscovery and credit to Mendel’s original work in the spring of 2000. This led to other biologists taking a greater interest in modern genetics as an independent science. William Bateson, an English biologist, was a strong advocate for Mendel’s theories. He was also the first person to use the term “genetics”. Bateson was the director of a new school of embryonic genetics at Cambridge. It includes many female scientists who are associated with Newnham College in Cambridge.
R.A. Fischer was a well-known statistician who argued that Mendel’s results were “too good to believe” and suggested Mendel might have falsified the results to keep his hypothesis true. Retrying the experiments yields similar results, proving that there is no bias in Mendel’s data.
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