Czech inventors

Johann Gregor Mendel


Johann Gregor MendelJohann Gregor MendelMendel was born in Hynčice in Czech Republic. During his childhood, Mendel worked as a gardener, studied beekeeping, and as a young man attended school in Opava. Later in 1840-43 he studied at the University of Olomouc. Upon recommendation of his physics teacher Friedrich Franz, he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St Thomas in Brno in 1843. Born Johann Mendel, he took the name Gregor upon entering monastic life. In 1851 he was sent to the University of Vienna to study under the sponsorship of Abbot C. F. Napp. Mendel returned to his abbey in 1853 as a teacher, principally of physics, and by 1867, he had replaced Napp as abbot of the monastery. Besides his work on plant breeding while at St Thomas's Abbey, Mendel also bred bees in a bee house that was built for him, using bee hives that he designed. He also studied astronomy and meteorology, founding the 'Austrian Meteorological Society' in 1865. The majority of his published works were related to meteorology.

Gregor Mendel, who is known as the "father of modern genetics", was inspired by both his professors at university and his colleagues at the monastery to study variation in plants, and he conducted his study in the monastery's two hectare experimental garden. Between 1856 and 1863 Mendel cultivated and tested some 29,000 pea plants. This study showed that one in four pea plants had purebred recessive alleles, two out of four were hybrid and one out of four were purebred dominant. His experiments led him to make two generalizations, the Law of Segregation and the Law of Independent Assortment, which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Inheritance.

Johann Gregor MendelJohann Gregor Mendel Mendel did read his paper, Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden (Experiments on Plant Hybridization), at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in Moravia in 1865. It was received favorably and generated reports in several local newspapers. When Mendel's paper was published in 1866 in Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereins Brünn, it was seen as essentially about hybridization rather than inheritance and had little impact and was cited about three times over the next thirty-five years. His paper was criticized at the time, but is now considered a seminal work.

After Mendel completed his work with peas, he turned to experimenting with honeybees, in order to extend his work to animals. He produced a hybrid strain (so vicious they were destroyed), but failed to generate a clear picture of their heredity because of the difficulties in controlling mating behaviours of queen bees. He also described novel plant species, and these are denoted with the botanical author abbreviation "Mendel".

After he was elevated as abbot in 1868, his scientific work largely ended as Mendel became consumed with his increased administrative responsibilities, especially a dispute with the civil government over their attempt to impose special taxes on religious institutions. At first Mendel's work was rejected, and it was not widely accepted until after he died. Mendel's ideas were rediscovered in the early twentieth century, and in the 1930s and 1940s the modern synthesis combined Mendelian genetics with Darwin's theory of natural selection.

Mendel died on January 6, 1884, at age 61, in Brno, from chronic nephritis. Czech composer Leoš Janáček played the organ at his funeral. After his death the succeeding abbot burned all papers in Mendel's collection, to mark an end to the disputes over taxation.