Mendel, Gregor Johann 1822-1884

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Gregor Mendel was an Austrian Augustinian Monk whose discoveries laid the foundation for the science of genetics. He was born in Heinzendorf, which was formerly a town in Austrian Siberia. Early in his life he developed an interest in natural science. After two years of study at the Philsophical Institute at Olmutz (now Olomouc, a city of Czechoslovakia), he entered the Augustrian Monastery at what is now Brno in Czechoslovakia. He was ordained as a priest in 1847 and from 1849 he acted as a reserve teacher of Greek and mathematics in Gymnasium of a small town near Brno. In 1850 he took the examination for certification as a regular teacher but failed with his poorest grades in biology and geology.

He was sent by the Abbot of the Monastery to the University of Vienna where he studied physics, chemistry, zoology and botany (1851-53). In 1854 he returned to Brno and taught natural science in the technical high school until 1868. Visitors to Brno are pointed out the school where he taught during this period of his life.

The experiments with the pea for which he is famous were conducted in a small garden adjacent to the Monastery wall. This garden is now commemorated by a marker stone, a monument to Mendel and the window of the room in which he lived prior to becoming the Abbot is likewise pointed out to visitors as well.

The library of both the monastery and school contained essential scientific books, espeically in agriculture, horticulture and botany. These subjects were of great interest to Mendel because of his experience on his father's farm which contained an orchard. He was also much interested in bees and the site of his aviary on the monastery property is still pointed out to visitors. The library is still extant and likewise is of much interest to visitors.

Mendel began his experiments before Davis' first book was published. He reported his results to the Natural Science Society on February 8 and March 8, 1865.

Mendel was responsible for the formulation of the "essential requirements for its experimental study of heredity and his provision of experimental data satisfying these requirements" (Encyclopedia Brittanica). His paper was published in detail in the Transactions of the Natural Science Society in 1866 with the title Versuch uber Pflanzenhybriden. One of the most outstanding botanists of Europe, K.W. von Nageli, Professor of Botany of the University of Munich failed to appreciate the implications of the outstanding discoveries of Gregor Mendel with whom he carried on considerable correspondence.

Although Mendel continued his interest in botany and bee culture until his death, after his election as Abbot of the Monastery in 1868 he was unable to spend any time on further research. He died as a virtually unknown man on January 6, 1884, much respected by all who knew him but unknown as one of the great biological scientists of the 19th Century.

Finally in 1900 three European botanists, K.E. Correns, E. Tschermak von Seysenegg and Hugo de Vries independently obtained similar results and found by searching the literature that Mendel had published similar data and presented the same general theories 34 years previously. At the 50th anniversary of the "rediscovery" the Genetics Society of America in 1950 surveyed Mendel's influence in evolution, biochemistry, medicine, agriculture, physiology, and social science.