Series: Famous Citizens – Father of Modern Genetics
Gregor Johann Mendel saw that living things pass traits to the next generation by something which remains unchanged in successive generations of an organism – today, we call this ‘something’ genes.
Gregor Johann Mendel known as the “father of modern genetics” was born on July 22nd 1822 in Hynčice which belonged to the Austrian Empire at the time. He spent his childhood on the family’s farm until he was sent to school upon the recommendation of the local headmaster who saw talent in the little kid. In Opava, he finished the school with honors and proceeded to study in Palacký University in Olomouc at the faculty of Philosophy.
Having excelled at the studies and coming from a relatively poor family, Johann became a tutor for some time to pay the bills. After graduating, despite the wish of his father (to become a farm help), Mendel joined the Augustinian order at St. Thomas Abbey in Brno. Upon entering the religious life, he took up the name of Gregor, Řehoř in Czech. The studies to become a monk opened to Gregor the doors to the monastery’s library and research facilities. Two times, he tried to become a certified teacher. Both failed at the oral part of the exam, even after several years of preparations at the University of Vienna.
Around 1854 he began experimenting with peas on the transmission of hereditary traits. He chose peas because it was fairly easy and quick to cultivate them. He cross-fertilized plants with different traits (color, shape) and came up with the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment. He established, momentously, that traits pass from parents to their offspring in a mathematically predictable way and realized that certain traits skip a generation – seemingly lost traits could appear again in another generation – he called these recessive traits.
Until the end of his life, he died of nephritis, he was an abbot of the monastery, leading peaceful yet busy with abbot’s responsibilities life. Although, his work was revolutionary in the field, it was mostly unknown during his lifetime. Half a decade later, he was largely referenced in the studies of other genetic scientist as the breakthrough researcher in the field of genetics.