Gregor Mendel Facts: 23 Fascinating Facts about the Father of Genetics

Nearly everything that we know today about heredity, genes, and the genetics of inheritance is thanks to the investigations of a Moravian scientist, Gregor Johann Mendel, who is often referred to as the father of modern genetics. His experiments with natural sciences and, in particular, thousands of pea plants, were conducted over the course of seven years and largely advanced genetics as we know it today. Mendel lived a modest life that was filled with failures, each of which somehow contributed to his return to his true love, namely science. Below are some interesting facts about Mendel that not too many of us know.

  1. Even as a young child, Mendel was very intelligent and curious. He studied very hard, focusing on subjects such as physics, ethics, philosophy, mathematics, and religion.
  2. Mendel’s first name was originally Johann, but this was changed to Gregor in 1843 upon entering the Augustinian order of the Roman Catholic Church.
  3. Mendel had run out of his money by the time he was 21, at which point one of his instructors, Professor Fried rich Franz, suggested he join the Abbey of St. Thomas in Brünn and become a monk.
  4. In order to continue studying science and not starve, Mendel became a monk.
  5. In 1847 Mendel became a priest and, in 1848, he got his own parish. However, because he did not enjoy working as a parish priest, he became a high school teacher in 1849.
  6. At the age of 28, Mendel failed his teaching exam and could not become a teacher.
  7. A year later, he attended the University of Vienna to study chemistry, biology, and physics. The aim behind that was that he gained enough knowledge to become a high school teacher.
  8. During his time at the University of Vienna, Mendel studied mathematics and physics under Christian Doppler (after whom the wave frequency Doppler effect was named). He also studied botany under Franz Unger who conducted his studies by utilizing a microscope. Unger was also a supporter of a pre-Darwinian version of evolutionary theory.
  9. He finished his studies in 1854 when he returned to the monastery and became a physics teacher at Brünn. He stayed there for the next 16 years.
  10. In 1856, Mendel failed again when he tried to pass the teaching exam. This time, his illnesses prevented him from completing the exams.
  11. That same year, Mendel started working on what would become his major groundbreaking study of heredity in plants.Five Key Differences Between DNA and RNA
  12. Between 1856 and 1863, Mendel cultivated and tested almost 30,000 pea plants in the monastery garden.
  13. Mendel kept records and monitored heredity of seven traits among peas: seeds and seed shape, flower color, seed coat tint, pod shape, unripe pod color, flower location, and plant height.
  14. Mendel specifically observed that characteristics were passed down faithfully from one generation to the next. Color, for example, was either white or purple. Pea shape was either round or wrinkled and either yellow or green.
  15. The term Mendelian inheritance refers to a set of rules that revolve around the passing down of hereditary traits from parents to their offspring and is the fundamental basis of genetics.
  16. Mendel’s Laws of Heredity or Mendelian inheritance were described by Mendel in a paper that had two parts titled Experiments on Plant Hybridization. It was published in 1866.
  17. Unrelated to his studies, Mendel fought taxation laws until his death. He battled with the government for nearly a decade, driven by the belief that a new tax that was imposed on monasteries was unconstitutional.
  18. While others failed in their approaches, Mendel was successful in large part because of the way he set up his experiments and studied only clear-cut and measurable heredity differences. Furthermore, he focused his studies beyond just the first generation and looked at subsequent offspring to confirm his findings. He used very simple mathematics to describe his findings and he kept such clear records of everything, and this made it easy to both comprehend as well as reproduce his findings.
  19. Mendel’s findings were not accepted by the scientific community during his lifetime. This was, in part,due to the fact that his contemporaries believed that hereditary traits were blended and averaged between the parents rather than independently. Another reason for the lack of acceptance was that not many of Mendel’s contemporaries were able to reproduce his findings.
  20. Mendel died in 1884 due to kidney problems at the age of 61. He remained unaware of the groundbreaking findings that he had generated as well as the controversies that they gave rise to. In other words, just like so very many artists that were not appreciated during their lifetime, Mendel did not live to experience the evolutionary effects that he triggered within the biology community.
  21. Mendel’s work resurfaced several decades later as a result of several geneticists, botanists, and biologists conducting research on heredity. Their studies shed light on the validity of Mendel’s work, and his findings started to be referred to as Mendel’s Laws. Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg each independently reproduced Mendel’s findings in 1900.
  22. Each of the scientists claimed that they did not know of Mendel’s work at the time they conducted their studies. They all claimed that they came to the same conclusions independently.
  23. Overall, Mendel’s Laws of Heredity are separated into two separate postulates, namely his Law of Segregation and his Law of Independent Assortment.


Laura Day