Gregor Johann Mendel was born on 22 July 1822 in Hyncice, Moravia, in what is now the Czech Republic. The only son of a peasant farmer, Mendel attended local schools and the Philosophic Institute at Olomouc. In 1843, he entered the Augustinian Order at St. Thomas Monastery in Brünn. The Monastery was a center of creative interest in the sciences and culture, and whose members included well-known philosophers, a musicologist, mathematicians, mineralogists and botanists involved in scientific research and teaching. Mendel later wrote that he developed his preference for the natural sciences there.
He began his theological studies at the Brünn Theological College, and was later ordained to the priesthood on 6 August 1847. Mendel was then assigned to pastoral duties, but appeared to be more suited to teaching. In 1849, he was assigned to a secondary school in the city of Znaim. Mendel never passed the state exam for teacher certification, but attended lectures and seminars in the natural sciences and mathematics in Vienna. While there, he acquired the empirical, methodological and scientific research skills which he applied to his later investigations. Mendel returned to teaching in Brünn in 1854, where he continued to teach part-time.
He established two principles of heredity — the law of segregation and the law of independent assortment — that prove the existence of paired elementary units of heredity (factors) and establish the statistical laws governing them. He became the first to understand the importance of statistical investigation and to apply a knowledge of mathematics to a biological problem.
Mendel's findings on plant hybridization were presented in two lectures before the Society for the Study of the Natural Sciences in Brünn in 1865. His paper, Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden ("Experiments in Plant Hybridization,") was published in the society's Proceedings in 1866.
Mendel continued to conduct research in horticulture, apiculture, meteorology, and astronomy. He next experimented on various species of the genus Hieracium (hawkweed). Mendel was not able to replicate his findings. In 1869 he published a report that hinted that the results were different from those obtained for Pisum, but left the problem open for further research. It has been speculated that had Mendel's research been confirmed in other organisms, his reputation might have spread more rapidly.
He established two principles of heredity — the law of segregation and the law of independent assortment — that prove the existence of paired elementary units of heredity (factors) and establish the statistical laws governing them.
On 30 March 1868, Mendel was elected abbot of St. Thomas Monastery, and became involved many civic responsibilities that took him away from his scientific work. A new taxation law in 1874 increased the tax on the monasteries to cover the expenses of Church institutions. Mendel, alone among the monastery superiors, vigorously contested the tax and refused to recognize the validity of the law. He became isolated both in the monastery and in public life until his death.
Mendel died in Brünn on 6 January 1884, living a solitary life in his last years. He said before his death: "My scientific labors have brought me a great deal of satisfaction, and I am convinced that before long the entire world will praise the result of these labors." His serene confidence despite the lack of recognition his work received was to be vindicated. Mendel remains one of the great biologist of the nineteenth century and the inspiration for one of the most challenging sciences of our time — genetics.
- Dodson, E.O., "Teilhard and Mendel: Contrasts and Parallels," Teilhard Studies No. 12, (Fall 1984);
- Henig, Robin M., The Monk in the Garden, (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000);
- Gregor Mendel, "Experiments in Plant Hybridization," in R.B. Blumbreg, ed., MendelWeb;
- Olby, Robert C., "Mendel, Mendelism and Genetics," in R. B. Blumberg, ed., MendelWeb;
- Orel, Vitezslav, Gregor Mendel: The First Geneticist (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1996);
- Peaslee, M.H., "In the Footsteps of Mendel," in R. B. Blumberg, ed., MendelWeb;
- Sapp, Jan, "The Nine Lives of Gregor Mendel," in R. B. Blumberg, ed., MendelWeb;
- Strickberger, Monroe W., Genetics (New York, NY: The Macmillan Company, 1968).