German speaking Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) was a meteorologist, mathematician, biologist, Augustinian friar and Abbot of St. Thomas’ Abbey in Brno, Margraviate of Moravia.
Through his work on pea plants, he discovered the fundamental laws of inheritance, deducting that genes come in pairs and are inherited as distinct units, one from each parent. Mendel tracked the segregation of parental genes and their appearance in the offspring as dominant or recessive traits. He recognized the mathematical patterns of inheritance from one generation to the next. Mendel’s Laws of Heredity are usually stated as:
- The Law of Segregation: Each inherited trait is defined by a gene pair. Parental genes are randomly separated to the sex cells so that sex cells contain only one gene of the pair. Offspring therefore inherit one genetic allele from each parent when sex cells unite in fertilization.
- The Law of Independent Assortment: Genes for different traits are sorted separately from one another so that the inheritance of one trait is not dependent on the inheritance of another.
- The Law of Dominance: An organism with alternate forms of a gene will express the form that is dominant.
The genetic experiments Mendel did with pea plants took him eight years (1856-1863) and he published his results in 1865. During this time, Mendel grew over 10,000 pea plants, keeping track of progeny number and type. Mendel’s work and his Laws of Inheritance were not appreciated in his time. It wasn’t until 1900, after the rediscovery of his Laws, that his experimental results were understood.