20 July 1822
Heinzendorf bei Odrau, Austrian Empire (now Hynčice, Czech Republic)
|Died||6 January 1884 (aged 61)
Brno (Brünn), Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic)
|Nationality||Empire of Austria-Hungary|
|Institutions||St Thomas’s Abbey|
|Alma mater||University of Olomouc
University of Vienna
|Known for||Creating the science of genetics|
Gregor Johann Mendel (20 July 1822 – 6 January 1884) was a German-speaking Moravian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Though farmers had known for centuries that crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel’s pea plant experiments conducted between 1856 and 1863 established many of the rules of heredity, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance.
Mendel worked with seven characteristics of pea plants: plant height, pod shape and color, seed shape and color, and flower position and color. With seed color, he showed that when a yellow pea and a green pea were bred together their offspring plant was always yellow. However, in the next generation of plants, the green peas reappeared at a ratio of 1:3. To explain this phenomenon, Mendel coined the terms “recessive” and “dominant” in reference to certain traits. (In the preceding example, green peas are recessive and yellow peas are dominant.) He published his work in 1866, demonstrating the actions of invisible “factors”—now called genes—in providing for visible traits in predictable ways.
The profound significance of Mendel’s work was not recognized until the turn of the 20th century (more than three decades later) with the independent rediscovery of these laws. Erich von Tschermak, Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and William Jasper Spillman independently verified several of Mendel’s experimental findings, ushering in the modern age of genetics.