Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mendelian Inheritance

Mendelian inheritance (or Mendelian genetics or Mendelism) is a set of primary tenets relating to the transmission of hereditary characteristics from parent organisms to their children; it underlies much of genetics. They were initially derived from the work of Gregor Mendel (a Christian Augustinian monk who belived in creationism) published in 1865 and 1866 which was "re-discovered" in 1900, and were initially very controversial. When they were integrated with the chromosome theory of inheritance by Thomas Hunt Morgan in 1915, they became the core of classical genetics.

The laws of inheritance were derived by Gregor Mendel, a 19th century Moravian monk conducting plant hybridity experiments. Between 1856 and 1863, he cultivated and tested some 28,000 pea plants. His experiments brought forth two generalizations which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Heredity or Mendelian inheritance. These are described in his essay "Experiments on Plant Hybridization" that was read to the Natural History Society of Brno on February 8 and March 8, 1865, and was published in 1866.

Mendel's results were largely neglected. Though they were not completely unknown to biologists of the time, they were not seen as being important. Even Mendel himself did not see their ultimate applicability, and thought they only applied to certain categories of species. In 1900, however, the work was "re-discovered" by three European scientists, Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and Erich von Tschermak. The exact nature of the "re-discovery" has been somewhat debated: De Vries published first on the subject, and Correns pointed out Mendel's priority after having read De Vries's paper and realizing that he himself did not have priority, and De Vries may not have acknowledged truthfully how much of his knowledge of the laws came from his own work, or came only after reading Mendel's paper. Later scholars have accused Von Tschermak of not truly understanding the results at all.


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