TOP

Mendel: Lest we forget !

By Vision Reporter

Added 4th November 2002 03:00 AM

His name is introduced to biology students, but is often forgotten after the final exam.

His name is introduced to biology students, but is often forgotten after the final exam.

His pioneering discoveries went unnoticed by the world until years after his death.

During the Czech Republic’s communist era, the medieval abbey where he made his discovery was closed and became a neglected, decaying shell.

Friar Johann Gregor Mendel, was the man who paved the way for the modern science of genetic engineering.

Today, in the era of genetic engineering and cloning debates, a group of scientists have created a showcase aimed at giving Mendel his rightful place in history.

The group led by a Vienna professor has created an exhibition of artwork and artifacts inside the partially restored Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno, a Czech city where Mendel lived.

Here, he experimented with pea plants, and published his historic findings in 1866, becoming the “father of genetics”.

The abbey, which dates back to the 14th century, was seized from the Augustinian monks by communists in 1950 and returned to the religious order after the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

A restoration project began in 1996. Yet much of the stone complex remains unused.

The exhibition was officially launched early this year when about 100 scientists from around the world gathered at the abbey for a genetics conference.

Mendel was born to a farming family in what is today the eastern Czech Republic. He became a priest in 1847 and later studied science at the University of Vienna.

Fascinated by plant hybridisation, he began experimenting in the abbey garden with pea plants.

During the 1850s, he carefully and systematically cross-bred the plants until he reached the conclusions that form the basis for the laws of heredity.

He presented his landmark paper in 1865 and had it published the next year. But no one noticed.

According to scholars, Mendel’s contemporaries failed to grasp the significance of his discoveries.

Around 1900, however, long after his death in 1884, a British zoologist re-introduced Mendel and his work, sparking an era of medical, agricultural and scientific progress that continues today.

Indeed, thanks to Mendel and his peas, modern man now understands why children inherit their parents’ traits, the roles played by chromosomes and DNA in living things and how genetics can be used to improve human health.

More recently his findings led to the famous cloning of Dolly the sheep.
The scientists spearheading the Mendel Museum come from Austria, Germany, England, the Czech Republic and the United States.

For the display, they collected Mendel’s laboratory tools and books, and commissioned artwork including blown-glass shaped in the form of plant cells.

Jiricna, the architect, considers it significant that the exhibit and museum project is the brainchild of scientists “who are experiencing the success Mendel never enjoyed”.

Their careers, she said, are built on a foundation laid by “the little man behind it all,” who died without credit, but whose discoveries are still “amazing the world.”

dpa

Mendel: Lest we forget !

Related Articles

More From The Author

Related articles