Gregor Johann Mendel
are many laws that scientists have doggedly worked at understanding. And
when they have, the knowledge has always has been used for the betterment
of society. One such scientific law is the law of heredity, discovered by Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk who was also an avid botanist. He was the
first botanist to lay a mathematical foundation of the science of
Mendel was born on July 22, 1822, to a family of poor peasants. He was
a brilliant student and his one burning desire in life was to become a
teacher. Ironically, he never succeeded in passing the test for becoming a
teacher. His interest in natural science developed early. During his
times, it was often the practice that most teachers were priests. He
joined a monastery at the age of twenty-one, to become a monk. He joined
the monastery of St. Thomas in Brünn, which is now a part of
Czechoslovakia and which was a scientific as well as a religious centre.
He became a priest in the year 1847.
as he was training himself to become a priest, he continued to study
science. In 1851, the
monastery sent him to the University of Vienna, where he studied physics,
chemistry, mathematics, zoology, and botany. On returning to Brünn, he
began teaching natural science at a technical school.
the year 1864, Mendel was elected abbot of the monastery. As an abbot, he
found very little time to devote for research. His research work began in
the small botanical garden in the monastery. He also devoured books on
horticulture, agriculture and botany, which were available in the
monastery and in the school where he taught. Among his colleagues at the
high school were several men engaged in science, some of who founded the
Natural Science Society in Brünn, in 1862. Mendel was actively involved
in the Society. He would attend the meetings regularly. He also continued
to educate himself by reading books.
Soon Mendel began to conduct experiments. He studied the inheritance
of seven pairs of traits in garden pea plants and in their seeds. These
pairs included tall or short plants and rounded or wrinkled seeds. He bred
and crossbred thousands of plants and observed the characteristics of each
soon arrived at the conclusion that pea plants reproduced through the
union of cells called gametes and that plant traits were being handed down
through hereditary elements, now called genes, in the gametes. He worked
out that each plant receives a pair of genes for one trait; that is one
gene from each of its parents. He
also concluded that if a plant inherits two different genes for a trait,
one was dominant and the other recessive. It is the trait of the dominant
gene that would appear in the plant. For
example, if a plant inherits genes for round seeds and wrinkled seeds, it
would have round seeds, if the gene for the round seed was dominant.
and the two laws
Yet another conclusion that Mendel drew was that the pairs of genes
separated randomly when a plant’s gametes were formed. Working
backwards, he concluded that a parent plant hands down only one gene of
each pair to its offspring. This led to his Law
of Segregation. He also claimed that a plant inherits each of its
traits independent of other traits. This led to the Law
of Independent Assortment. His system came to be known as
Mendelism and is considered one of the basic principles of biology.
Scientists have claimed there are exceptions to the rules, but in general,
the theories have been proved.
Mendel published the results of his study in 1866. His claims remained
unrecognized and unnoticed until long after his death in 1884. It was only
in the 1900 that scientists found the report and gave him due recognition
as one of the greatest scientists of his times.