Gregor Mendel, who is known as the "father of modern genetics," was inspired by both his professors at university and his colleagues at the monastery to study variation in plants, and he conducted his study in the monastery's garden. Between 1856 and 1863 Mendel cultivated and tested some 29,000 pea plants i.e. Pisum sativum . This study showed that one in four pea plants had purebred recessive alleles, two out of four were hybrid and one out of four were purebred dominant. His experiments brought forth two generalisations which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Inheritance.
According to the New World Encyclopedia, Mendel read his paper, Experiments on Plant Hybridization, at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in Moravia in 1865. When Mendel's paper was published in 1866 in Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brünn, it had little impact and was cited about three times over the next thirty-five years. His paper received plenty of criticism at the time, but is now considered a seminal work.
Mendel lived around the same time as the British naturalist Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) and many have considered a historical evolutionary synthesis of Darwinian natural selection and Mendelian genetics during their lifetimes. Mendel had read a German translation of Darwin's Origin (as evidenced by underlined passages in the copy in his monastery), after completing his experiments but before publishing his paper. Some passages in Mendel's paper are Darwinian in character, evidence that The Origin of Species influenced Mendel's writing. Darwin did not have a copy of Mendel's paper, but he did have a book by Focke with references to it. The leading expert in heredity at this time was Darwin's half-cousin Francis Galton who had mathematical skills that Darwin lacked and may have been able to understand the paper had he seen it. In any event, the modern evolutionary synthesis did not start until the 1920s, by which time statistics had become advanced enough to cope with genetics and evolution.
- 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia entry, "Mendel, Mendalism"
- Online Mendelian Inheritence in Man
- Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas at Brno
- Gregor Mendel: Why his discoveries were ignored for 35 (72) years
Gregor Mendel Quotes
The value and utility of any experiment are determined by the fitness of the material to the purpose for which it is used, and thus in the case before us it cannot be immaterial what plants are subjected to experiment and in what manner such experiment is conducted.
My scientific studies have afforded me great gratification; and I am convinced that it will not be long before the whole world acknowledges the results of my work.