Gregor Johann Mendel
Gregor Mendel Biography
Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-84) was born to a peasant family in the Central European village of Heinzendorf. The poverty his family experienced meant that Mendel had to work to support himself in his studies from an early age. It placed a strain on his health throughout his schooling. From the age of 16 he had to provide to himself entirely. At one point his younger sister renounced part of her dowry to finance his further study. At the age of 21 he was offered a place in the monastery at Brno. He accepted this offer, feeling ‘compelled to enter a station in life which would free him from the bitter struggle for existence’. The monastery contained thirteen priests, chosen for their intellectual ability. They were free to travel, and to receive guests; the monastery was an important intellectual center with an excellent cuisine.
From this base, Mendel taught biology for 14 years at a secular high school in Brno that had an able staff team, and over 1000 pupils. He was a good teacher, friendly and humorous. He twice failed the examination to obtain a regular teaching license but he kept his position, and the salary enabled him to repay his sister by supporting his nephews through medical school. It was during this period that Mendel conducted his studies on the mechanism of inheritance. He worked with a range of animals, but concentrated on hybridization in several species of plant. He is best remembered for his work on the edible pea, Pisum. In 1868 his research was interrupted by his election to the position of abbot of the monastery. He continued to correspond with outside academics, but it is unlikely that his research papers were read with understanding in his lifetime. Mendel was not bitter about this; a friend heard him reflect ‘Meine Zeit wird schon kommeri (‘My time will soon come’)! In 1884, Mendel died of a kidney disorder.
Contributions to biology in the field of Genetics
Through spheres studied by Mendel on pea plants, discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance, which are now known as: law of segregation, law of dominance and the law of independent assortment. Mendel never presented the results in the form of the laws so often quoted as his, which may help to explain the difficulty others had in seeing the significance of his work. He published his results through his local scientific societies. He also wrote to an eminent German botanist, but was advised to obtain more data. Mendel’s results were from 21000 plants!
Influences of Gregor Mendel
Mendel carried out his research in his spare time, motivated only by his devotion to science. He had no collaborators, and no students to carry it on. Mendel was convinced that the larger the number of plants used, the more likely it was that chance effects would be excluded. He was a pioneer in applying statistical methods to biological research, and he overthrew the ancient and prevailing notion of blending inheritance by investigating the inheritance of discrete characteristics of parents and offspring.
He worked in his monastery’s garden in the outskirts of London for Gregor Mendel Discoveries. Mendel’s work was finally rediscovered 16 years after he died, by geneticists who were searching the literature for evidence of a mechanism of inheritance that would account for the origin of species.