Life History of Gregor John Mendel and his work


Do you know who is known as the father of genetics? Why did he get success in his work? Why did he select pea plant for his experiments? In the below article, you will find the life history of Gregor Mendel and his work on Pea plants. You will also find the answers of all the above questions in this article.

Life history of Gregor John Mendel


Gregor Mendel
(Image courtesy: www.wikipedia.org)

Gregor John Mendel was born on 22nd July 1822 in Austria. His father was a Gardner. At the age of 20, Mendel graduated in philosophy and was appointed as a priest of Augustinian monastery at Brunn in Austria (now, Brno, in Czechoslovakia) in 1843. In 1851, he was sent to study natural science at the University of Vienna. Unfortunately, he could not complete his studies at the University and was returned to Brunn as a substitute teacher of science in 1854. It was during this tenure that Mendel conducted these researches over a period of eight years on the common garden pa plant, Pisum sativum in the monastery garden. Mendel's findings and conclusion of these experiments were published in the local but relatively unfamiliar journal "The Annual Proceedings of the Natural history Society" of Brunn (1865). Mendel was elected as the head monastery and died in 1884. Mendel's work in Pisum sativum which formed the basis of laws of heredity remained obscured and overlooked for about 34 years and he died without knowing the tremendous scope of laws of heredity he had discovered.

Rediscovery of Mendelism

Though Mendel completed his work in 1865, his work remained unnoticed till 1900 when three botanists Hugo de Vries (Holland), Carl Correns (Germany) and Erich von Tschermak (Austria) arrived independently at the same conclusion while studying inheritance in plant hybrids to which Mendel had arrived some 35 years ago. While going through scientific journals before publishing their own findings each of them came across Mendel's paper. Since the work done by them had been already done by Mendel, these three biologists collectively agreed for naming the law of heredity after Mendel and also brought their laws to the notice of the scientific world. Subsequently, Mendel's original work was republished in Flora in the year 1901, and after a few years, W. Bateson and his associates confirmed the laws of heredity put forth by Mendel in relation to animals. So, we can say that Gregor John Mendel was the first scientist who explained the mechanism of inheritance from parents to the offsprings. Gregor John Mendel is, therefore, regarded as the founder of modern genetics and is known as the father of genetics.

Why did Mendel work remain unnoticed for 35 years?

The main points to explain the above question are given below:

  1. Mendel's ideas of heredity and variations were ahead of his time.

  2. Mendel's work was published in a local relatively unfamiliar journal which had limited circulation.

  3. Calculations done by Mendel were very complicated if someone happened to read the work of Mendel he failed to make out its significance.

  4. Mendel was neither a scientist nor a member of any great university. Mendel's position as a priest and teacher in a small school went against his favour.

  5. Darwin published his book "Origin of species " in 1859, which arose a lot of discussion and controversy and most of the scientists, all over the world, were attracted by Origin of species.


Causes of Mendel's success

A lot of work on pea plant was done before Mendel, but all the predecessors of Mendel had failed, whereas Mendel succeeded because of the following reasons:

  • Mendel was wise enough to consider inheritance of one character at a time. Mendel's method of study differed from his predecessors who had considered several characters at a time.

  • Mendel carried out experiments of certain characters up to F2 and F3 generations and maintained the statistical data of all the experiments and thereafter analyzed them carefully.

  • Crossing was done between the parents of pure breed or pure line. It was ascertained by a series of self-crossing test between progeny of each successive generation.

  • Mendel grew up pure lines in separate garden plots, preventing chances of their mingling with others.

  • Foresight, mathematical background, scientific approach and course of luck are some other points of the success of Mendel.


Why did Mendel select pea plant for his experiments?

Mendel has selected garden pea (Pisum sativum) as the plant material for his experiment because of the following reasons:

  1. The flowers of pea plant are bisexual and naturally self-pollinated.

  2. Pea plant is an annual plant. Pea plant has a short life cycle. So, it is possible to study several generations within a short duration of time.

  3. The structure of the corolla of the flowers is such that the sex organs remain well protected and were beyond the reach of foreign pollen, thereby ensuring self-pollination.

  4. Cross pollination is easy since pollens from one plant can be introduced to the stigma of another plant by removing anthers.

  5. Because of self-fertilization, plants are homozygous. It is, therefore, easy to get pure lines for several generations.

  6. Pea plants are easy to cultivate and a large number of offspring are produced in each progeny.


Last words

Mendel selected seven pairs of contrasting characters for his experiments and after monohybrid cross and dihybrid cross, he introduced the law of inheritance. The three laws of inheritance are known as Mendelism .


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