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The Nine Lives of Gregor Mendel

  • Jan Sapp
Part of the Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science book series (AUST, volume 8)

Abstract

There is no greater legend in the history of science than that of the experiments of Gregor Mendel. Three moments in this legend are extraordinary: first, how in the 1860s, Mendel discovered the laws governing the inheritance of individual characters; second, how the scientific world failed to recognise the monumental importance of these findings during his life-time; and third, the remarkable ‘rediscovery’ in 1900 of what later came to be called Mendelism. Thus, after an eclipse of some 35 years Mendel’s experiments became universally hailed as providing a foundation for a chain of scientific research that culminated in the Darwinian evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s and’40s and in the spectacular accomplishments of modern molecular genetics. Eisely (1961: 211) summarized this legend beautifully when he wrote:

Mendel is a curious wraith in history. His associates, his followers, are all in the next century. That is when his influence began. Yet if we are to understand him and the way he rescued Darwinism itself from oblivion we must go the long way back to Brunn in Moravia and stand among the green peas in a quiet garden. Gregor Mendel had a strange fate: he was destined to live one life painfully in the flesh at Brunn and another, the intellectual life of which he dreamed, in the following century. His words, his calculations were to take a sudden belated flight out of the dark tomblike volumes and be written on hundreds of university blackboards, and go spinning through innumerable heads.

Keywords

Scientific Paper Founding Father Mendelian Genetic Unconscious Bias Discontinuous Evolution 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jan Sapp
    • 1
  1. 1.University of MelbourneAustralia

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