Mendel's lost paper

George Hammond ghammond at mediaone.net
Fri Jul 13 14:24:17 EST 2001


[Hammond]
  I found main street (Hyannis, MA) blocked off yesterday for
a summer street festival.  To escape the crowd I ducked into
a used book store.  Picking up the first available book in the
Science section, entitled _Men of Mathematics_, a 1950's
paperback languishing one step from the landfill, I flipped it
open.
  There were a dozen reprints of famous papers... a well known
chapter from Eddington's 1925 book on Relativity recounting his
trip to Principe to measure Einstein's theory of the Eclipse of
the Sun, a chapter on the Biological Size of Animals from that
Bell Canto epistle of D'Arcy Thompson's, a paper by our Marxist
friend Haldane, an account of Harrison's Chronometer and his
20 year fight with the Admiralty to collect his $50,000 prize..
... and right in the middle of the book, a paper by Gregor Mendel
entitled _The Mathematics of Heredity_.  Hmmmm.. I said, this
looks like Mendel's famous lost paper, the one that wasn't discovered
until 40 years after he died, and made him world famous.  I had
never actually seen this celebrated original paper by Mendel.
  Reading it through, only 5 or 10 Quarto pages, I was amazed to
find that Mendel was actually a professional scientist.  Hardly
the amateur pea picking Monk he is made out to be in popular
accounts.  In this paper, he describes the scientifically precise
plant breeding experiments he carried out for 8 years on Peas.
Sure enough, the basic discovery, that Hybrids will appear in the
ratio of 1:3, that is 3-dominants and 1-recessive for each trait
is first discovered. Interestingly, Mendel actually coins the
terms "dominant and recessive" in this paper.  Apparently was the
first one to ever use the term "recessive" in Genetics.  I can't
tell you how many times I have with exasperation fanned a modern
Biology book looking for a simple definition of "dominant and
recessive"... and there it was, from the master himself, in 10
words.
  Anyway, as I walked back out onto the street and back into the
crowd of street festivalers, I wondered about Mendel who had sent
this paper to all the Biology authorities in Europe only to have
them ignore it, and how he spent the rest of his life "arguing
Religious matters with the Catholic Church", totally unrecognized
by science.  And I suddenly realized that there was no doubt that
he knew it, knew that he had made a historic scientific discovery,
and that he would be world famous after he died.
  And, I wondered about the fate of the SPOG, and the fate of George
Hammond.  I wondered if I would become another Mendel.  If so, I 
felt slightly relieved, to find that I would be in truly
illustrious company.
-- 
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George Hammond, M.S. Physics
Email:    ghammond at mediaone.net
Website:  http://people.ne.mediaone.net/ghammond/index.html
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