Discrete Genes Are Inherited: Gregor Mendel (2 of 2)

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 Evening Primrose
 

Mendel’s Work Goes Unrecognized
Mendel tried to drum up interest in his results but to no avail. Part of the problem was that botanists of Mendel’s time were not accustomed to statistics being applied to natural history, and so they couldn’t recognize the importance of Mendel’s discovery. And when Mendel tried to replicate his results with the evening primrose, he failed—not because his original insights were wrong, but because the genetics of primroses are very peculiar. Mendel apparently even sent one of his scientific papers to Darwin, but Darwin never bothered to read it. The patterns that Mendel saw were there in nature for anyone to see. Darwin himself noted a three-to-one ratio in the colors of snapdragons. But for all his genius, Darwin didn’t realize the importance of that ratio.

Mendel abandoned his experiments in the 1860s and turned his attentions to running his monastery. When he died in 1884, he was remembered as a puttering monk with a skill for breeding plants. It was only some 15 years after his death that scientists realized that Mendel had revealed the answer to one of life’s greatest mysteries.

• Primrose image courtesy of the Great Plains Nature Center; photo by Jim Mason.

 

Left: Mendel’s experiments with evening primroses did not yield results consistent with his work on peas.


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