The Nine Lives of Gregor Mendel

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


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.


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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Barber, B. (1962). Resistance by scientists to scientific discovery. In The sociology of science, ed. B. Barber & W. Hirsch, pp. 539–56. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  2. Bateson, W. (1909). Mendel’s principles of heredity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bateson, W. (1914). Address of the President of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Science, 40, 287–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bateson, W. & Saunders, E.R. (1902). Experimental studies in the physiology of heredity. Reports to the Evolution Committee of the Royal Society, i, pp. 1–160.Google Scholar
  5. Beadle, G.W. (1967). Mendelism, 1965. In Heritage from Mendel, ed. R.A. Brink & E.D. Styles, pp. 335–50. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  6. Brannigan, A. (1981). The social basis of scientific discoveries. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brannigan, A. (1979). The reificationof Gregor Mendel. Social studies of science, 9, 423–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Callender, L.A. (1988). Gregor Mendel: An opponent of descent with modification. History of science, 26, 41–75.Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, M. (1976). Explanations of Mendel’s results. Centaurus, 20, 159–74.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Collins, H. (1985). Changingorder: Replication and induction in scientific practice. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  11. Dawkins, R. (1986). The blind watchmaker. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  12. De Beer, G. (1964). Mendel, Darwin and Fisher (1865–1965). Notes and records of the Royal Society, 19, 192–226.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dunn, L.C. (1965). A short history of genetics. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  14. Edwards, AW.F. (1987). Defending Mendel merely perpetuating a myth. Nature, 326, 449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Eisley, Loren. (1961). Darwin’s century. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  16. Fisher, R.A. (1936). Has Mendel’s work been rediscovered? Annals of science, 1, 115–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Forman, P. (1969). The discovery of the diffraction of X-rays by crystals: A critique of myths. Archive for the history of exact sciences, 5, 38–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gasking, E.B. (1959). Why was Mendel’s work ignored? Journal of the history of ideas, 20, 60–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. I tis, H. (1966). The life of Mendel. New York: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  20. Johannsen, W. (1911). The genotype conception of heredity. American naturalist, 45, 129–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kevles, D. (1980). Genetics in the United States and Great Britain, 1890–1930: A review with speculations. Isis, 71, 441–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. MacKenzie, D. (1981). Statistics in Britain, 1865–1930. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Mayr, E. (1982). The growth of biological thought. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Medawar, P. (1963). Is the scientific paper a fraud? The listener, 12 Sept., pp. 377–8.Google Scholar
  25. Moore, J. (1986). Socializing darwinism: Historiography and the fortunes of a phrase. In Science as Politics, ed. L. Levidow, pp. 38–80. London: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  26. Nemec, B. (1965). Before Mendel. In Fundamenta genetica, ed. J. Krizenecky, pp. 1–13. Osterhout and Brno.Google Scholar
  27. Olby, R. (1966). Origins of mendelism. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  28. Olby, R. (1979). Mendel no mendelian? History of science, 17, 53–72.Google Scholar
  29. Pilgrim, I. (1984). The too good to be true paradox and Gregor Mendel. The journal of heredity, 75, 501–2.Google Scholar
  30. Provine, W.B. (1971). The origins of theoretical population genetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Sapp, J. (1986). Inside the cell: Genetic methodology and the case of the cytoplasm. In The Politics and Rhetoric of Scientific Method, ed. J. Schuster & R. Yeo, pp. 167–202. Dordrecht: Reidel.Google Scholar
  32. Sapp, J. (1987). Beyond the gene: Cytoplasmic inheritance and the struggle for authority in genetics. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sapp, J. (1990). Where the truth lies: Franz Moewus and the origins of molecular biology. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Shapin, S. (1984). Pump and circumstance: Robert Boyle’s literary technology. Social studies of science, 14, 481–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Shapin, S. & Barnes, B. (1979). Darwin and social darwinism: Purity and history. In Natural order: Historical studies of scientific culture, ed. S. Shapin & B. Barnes, pp. 125–39. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  36. Sinnot, E., Dunn, L.C. & Dobzhansky, T. (1958). Principles of genetics. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  37. Stern, C. & Sherwood, E.R., eds. (1966). The origin of genetics: A Mendel source book. San Francisco: W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  38. Sturtevant, A.H. (1965). A short history of genetics. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  39. Thoday, J.M. (1966). Mendel’s work as an introduction to genetics. Advancement in science, 23, 120–34.Google Scholar
  40. Van Valen, L.M. (1987). Mendel was no fraud. Nature, 325, 395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Weinstein, A. (1977). How unknown was Mendel’s paper? Journal of the history of biology, 10, 341–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Wright, S. (1966). Mendel’s ratios. In Origin of genetics, ed C. Stern & E.R. Sherwood, pp. 173–5. San Fransisco: W.H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  43. Young, R. (1971). Darwin’s metaphor: Does nature select? The monist, 55, 442–503.Google Scholar
  44. Zirkle, C. (1951). Gregor Mendel and his precursors. Isis, 42, 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MelbourneAustralia

Personalised recommendations