Biography of Johann Gregor Mendel - The Father of Genetics
Johann Gregor Mendel well known as the Father of Genetics was born on July 22, 1822, in the Silesian Village of Heinzendorf, now known as Hyncice in the Czech Republic. His father's name was Anton Mendel, and his mother's name was Rosine Mendel.
Early life of Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel grew up on a rural farm in Heinzendorf, Silesia. He went to a rural school until the age of eleven. On seeing Gregor Mendel’s avid interest in studies, the school headmaster recommended him to be sent to a secondary school in Troppau. He was a very good student and graduated from the secondary school with high honors.
His family was very poor and could barely make ends meet. During this time, Mendel frequently worked on his family’s farm. Even before attending school Gregor Mendel was well versed in the fields of horticulture and agriculture.
After his graduation, Gregor Mendel joined the Philosophical Institute at the University of Olmutz and enrolled in a two-year program. In the institute, he excelled in the subjects of Physics and Maths. Gregor Mendel also tutored students in his free time to pay his fees.
During this time, Mendel suffered from depression due to which he stopped his studies for a short period. In spite of all the difficulties that he faced, Gregor Mendel graduated from the Philosophical University in 1843.
Gregor Mendel at the Augustinian Monastery
In the same year, Gregor Mendel joined the Augustinian monastery in Brno, the capital of Moravia.
In the monastery abbot, Cyril Napp helped and encouraged Gregor Mendel to research and conduct experiments on hybridization in plants. Hybridization in plants was of great concern to the monastery because of their possession of vast agricultural lands in Moravia.
The abbot also helped Gregor Mendel to study Physics, Botany and Zoology for two years at the University of Vienna.
Gregor Mendel at the University of Vienna
At the University of Vienna, Mendel was coached by two great scientists. Christian Doppler taught Mendel Mathematics, and Physics, and Franz Unger taught Mendel Botany. Mendel returned to the Augustinian monastery after completing his studies at the University of Vienna in 1853.
After his return, Mendel started teaching at a secondary school for more than a decade. During this time, Mendel began his experiments with pea plants that led to the discovery of Mendel's Laws of Inheritance in the field of Genetics.
Research Work of Gregor Mendel
In the year 1854, Mendel started his experiments with pea plants (Botanical Name – Pisum sativum). Mendel chose pea plants for his experiments because they had many varieties, it was very easy to produce the offspring of pea plants in a short time and could be grown in a small area.
Mendel observed following traits (characters) in pea plants –
Traits that Mendel studied in Pea Plants
Form of ripe seed
Smooth or Wrinkled
Color of seed albumen
Yellow or Green
Color of flower
Purple or White
Form of ripe pod
Inflated or Constricted
Color of unripe pods
Green or Yellow
Position of Flowers
Axial or Terminal
Length of Stem
Tall or Dwarf
Mendel's Laws of Inheritance
Mendel selectively cross-pollinated pure-bred pea plants with specific traits (characters) and observed the resultant offspring over many generations. These observations formed the basis of Mendel’s Laws of Genetic Inheritance.
Based on the results of his experiments with pea plants Mendel developed the three laws of inheritance -
- The Law of Dominance
- The Law of Segregation
- The Law of Independent Assortment
In 1865, Mendel gave two lectures about his findings to the Natural Science Society in Brno. They published the results of his studies in their journal “Experiments on Plant Hybrids” in the year 1866.
Little was known about the importance of his research and findings during that time. Even Mendel himself did not think that his laws had made a significant impact in the field of genetic inheritance. He believed that his laws applied only to a certain variety of pea plants with specific traits.
Gregor Mendel’s Late Life
Gregor Mendel was appointed as the abbot of the monastery in 1868. In the year 1874, the then ruling government formed a new law relating to the taxes that had to be paid by the cloisters to the religious fund. Mendel protested against the law passed by the government and refused to pay extra taxes.
Later, the government appointed him to the Board of Directors of the Moravian Mortgage Bank. In 1876, Mendel became the vice-governor of the bank and then the governor in 1881.
Mendel's health deteriorated due to the stress that he had to face while fighting against the unfair tax law passed by the Government. His health slowly deteriorated, and he died on Jan 6th, 1884 in Brno without receiving any recognition for his groundbreaking work in the field of genetics.
Recognition of Mendel's Research Work
Sixteen years later Mendel’s work was rediscovered by three Botanists Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich Tschemak. They appreciated and publicly recognized Mendel’s research work and also stated that they had achieved similar results in the experiments that they had conducted on plants.
Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance is now the foundation of the modern study of genetics.
History of Genetics - Gregor Johann Mendel