Rediscovery of Mendel

Rediscovery of Mendel - The "Rediscovery" of...

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The “Rediscovery” of Mendel’s Work Randy Moore General College, University of Minnesota, 128 Pleasant Street S.E. Minneapolis, MN 55455 E-mail: RMoore@tc.umn.edu FAX: 612-625-0709 Abstract: Contrary to popular belief, Mendel’s famous paper about plant breeding announced no major findings; it was known and acknowledged as “typical” science for its day. When it was “rediscovered” in 1900, Mendel’s paper became famous primarily as a result of a priority dispute between de Vries and Correns. This dispute prompted researchers to reinterpret and read importance into Mendel’s paper. Keywords : Correns, de Vries, Genetics, Mendel, Tschermak “Mendel’s 1865 report . .. fell on deaf ears”. (Lander and Weinberg, 2000) “There is not known another example of a science which sprang fully formed from the brain of one man.” (de Beer, 1965) “The publication of Mendel’s paper in 1865 [sic] was the throwing of pearls before swine.” (Darbishire, 1911) “All geneticists admitted that [Mendel’s paper] was written so perfectly that we could not – not even at present – put it down more properly … It was a work which came prematurely but being repeated and rediscovered it became one of the immortal works of the human spirit penetrating into the mystery of life” (Nemec, 1965) “Stolidly the audience had listened … Not a solitary soul had understood him. Thirty-five years were to flow by and the grass on the discoverer’s grave would be green before the world of science comprehended that tremendous moment.” (Eiseley, 1959) “[Mendel’s] laws were read back into his work and have continued to be read back in textbooks ever since”. (Bennett, 1964) “Mendelian historiography is a continuing detective story where overstatement and misunderstanding seem to have been, and still are the fashion of the day”. (Meijer 1982) Introduction Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) ranks second only to Charles Darwin on most biologists’ scales of hero worship. Mendel has been credited with discovering the first two laws of inheritance (i.e., the laws of segregation and independent assortment), which form the basis of what is now called “Mendelian genetics.” Consequently, Mendel -- like Darwin -- is included in “Rediscovery” of Mendel Bioscene 13
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all courses in introductory biology; he is said to have provided the foundation of genetics, supplied the missing mechanism in the Darwinian revolution, and, in the process, changed our understanding of the world (Gliboff, 1999; Olby, 1979). Discussions of Mendel’s work are almost always accompanied by mythical stories of how Mendel’s discoveries were rejected and how he died neglected, only to be resurrected as a scientific genius. Mendel’s resurrection involved a “rediscovery” of his work by botanists Carl Erich Correns (1864-1933) of Tübrgen (Germany), Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg (1871- 1962) of Esslingen (near Vienna, Austria), and Hugo Marie de Vries (1845-1935) of Amsterdam (Netherlands), each of whom claimed to have independently rediscovered and independently published virtually the same results in early 1900 (i.e., 16 years after Mendel’s death). As Tschermak (1900)
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Rediscovery of Mendel - The "Rediscovery" of...

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