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Johann Mendel, the Father of Genetics was born today, the 20th July 200 years ago in 1822. His pioneering work with peas is still the basis for genetic understanding as described in the Mendelian Inheritance.

Between 1856 and 1863, Mendel set out to try and better understand the principles behind inheritance. Farmers have known about hybrid breeding to select characteristics, but no one understand how the process worked.

Mendel chose to work with the pea plant. He chose well, since the pea has many distinct characteristics, such as height variations, the pea being smooth or wrinkled and so on. Mendel chose seven variations to study.  Another big advantage was the fast growing time of the pea, which greatly sped up his research.

Peas

Mendel was also a trained mathematician and used his multi-disciplinary approach to deepen his understanding. Over a six year period, Mendel studied an amazing 28,000 different pea varieties. By examining the characteristics of each and analysing how this related to the plants predecessors, he established the basic rules of genetic inheritance.

His work was not widely recognised for its importance during his lifetime, and it wasn’t really until about 1916 that the English biologist William Bateson championed his findings in a new translation of Mendel’s original work. 

John-Innes-Centre

The John Innes Centre

William Bateson was appointed a Director of the John Innes Centre and essentially devoted the research efforts of the institution towards Mendel’s methods.    The work continues to this day, in a direct link to Mendel’s original pea based studies. Recent innovations include gene-editing tomatoes to produce higher Vitamin D levels. 

Thanks to William Bateson, Johann Mendel is today recognized as the Father of Genetics. 

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