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Am J Med Genet. 1991 Jul 1;40(1):1-25; discussion 26.

Historical study: Johann Gregor Mendel 1822-1884.

Abstract

The life and personality of Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), the founder of scientific genetics, are reviewed against the contemporary background of his times. At the end are weighed the benefits for Mendel (as charged by Sir Ronald Fisher) to have documented his results on hand of falsified data. Mendel was born into a humble farm family in the "Kuhländchen", then a predominantly German area of Northern Moravia. On the basis of great gifts Mendel was able to begin higher studies; however, he found himself in serious financial difficulties because of his father's accident and incapacitation. His hardships engendered illness which threatened continuation and completion of his studies until he was afforded the chance of absolving successfully theological studies as an Augustinian monk in the famous chapter of St. Thomas in Altbrünn (Staré Brno). Psychosomatic indisposition made Mendel unfit for practical pastoral duties. Thus, he was directed to teach but without appropriate state certification; an attempt to pass such an examination failed. At that point he was sent to the University of Vienna for a 2-year course of studies, with emphasis on physics and botany, to prepare him for the exam. His scientific and methodologic training enabled him to plan studies of the laws of inheritance, which had begun to interest him already during his theology training, and to choose the appropriate experimental plant. In 1865, after 12 years of systematic investigations on peas, he presented his results in the famous paper "Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden." Three years after his return from Vienna he failed to attain his teaching certification a second time. Only by virtue of his exceptional qualifications did he continue to function as a Supplementary Professor of Physics and Natural History in the two lowest classes of a secondary school. In 1868 he was elected Abbot of his chapter, and freed from teaching duties, was able to pursue his many scientific interests with greater efficiency. This included meteorology, the measurement of ground water levels, further hybridization in plants (a.o. involving the hawk week Hieracium up to about 1873), vegetable and fruit tree horticulture, apiculture, and agriculture in general. This involved Mendel's active participation in many organizations interested in advancing these fields at a time when appropriate research institutes did not exist in Brünn. Some of the positions he took in his capacity of Abbot had severe repercussions and further taxed Mendel's already over-stressed system. The worst of these was a 10-year confrontation with the government about the taxation of the monastery.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

PMID:
1887835
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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