Gregor Mendel

Ross Koning koning at ECSUC.CTSTATEU.EDU
Mon Oct 25 07:44:29 EST 1999


At 12:53 PM -0500 10/23/99, taguebwREMOVE at wfu.edu wrote:
>Hey plant ed'ers,
>
>We all know that the really important scientific findings are discovered
>in plants first (the field of genetics, viruses, gasses as signalling
>molecules, etc. etc. etc) and that the animal, fungal and prokaryotic
>folks are jealous.... For example, I'm currently using a text book for my
>cell and molecular biology class that seems to take a bit of a sideways
>swipe at my hero Gregor Mendel. I also seem to remember talk a few years
>back about data fudging when it comes to Mendel's 3:1 ratios.
>
>One problem, of course, is Mendel's law of independent assortment. We now
>know that genes can be linked and therefore tend to be inherited together.
>The seven major traits that Mendel followed showed no linkage; that's how
>Gregor got his law of independent assortment.
>
>Now the book I'm using (Karp: Cell and Molecular Biology, 2nd ed) says
>"Whether Mendel owed his findings to good fortune or simply to a lack of
>interest in any traits that did not fit his predictions remains unclear
>(P. 417)." It is particularly the second of these possibilities that seems
>like a bit of a swipe.
>
>So what is the latest on my hero Gregor? Was he lucky? Did he look at
>other traits and discard them from analysis? DId he discard them because
>they didn't fit his predictions? Did he discard them to concentrate on
>well-behaved traits that could be attacked statistically? Did he fudge his
>data?
>
>Gregor did some amazing science some 50  years ahead of his time. What's
>the latest on him?
>
>Thanks
>
>Brian

Brian,

When you consider what Mendel accomplished and
when he accomplished it, he was indeed amazing.
I always tell my students that if a Nobel could
have been given posthumously, Darwin and Mendel
would be "sure bets."

I have not examined Mendel's extant notes and so
on first-hand, but it is my understanding from
reading a few biographies that other notes are
available and indicate that he worked with other
traits that DID fail the 3:1 ratio...he just
didn't publish on those. Why not? I guess that
is speculative.

In our litigious society perhaps he would be
brought up on Ethics charges...but when you
realize that the idea of genes, DNA, both male
and female contribution to genetics, cytogenetics,
diploidy, and so on were not even known...well
his work is just fantastic! That his work fell
on deaf ears in biology is no surprise as the
math-science connection had not been made yet.
I use this as an explanation for why math is
required of science majors...

The biographies indicate that Mendel was not
a very good teacher (at least not in the estimation
of his peers) and perhaps he wasn't reverent about
books in the library either.  Some of the books
in the library of the monastery have what are
considered to be Mendel's marginal notes. So
maybe Gregor wasn't the "angel" we sometimes
paint him to be...but he WAS a gifted scientist...
definitely WAY ahead of his time.

IMHO

ross

________________________________________________________________
Ross Koning                 | koning at ecsu.ctstateu.edu
Biology Department          | http://koning.ecsu.ctstateu.edu/
Eastern CT State University | phone: 860-465-5327
Willimantic, CT 06226 USA   | fax: 860-465-4479
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