Gregor Johann Mendel was a German-speaking Moravian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the modern science of genetics. Though farmers had known for centuries that crossbreeding of animals and plants could favor certain desirable traits, Mendel's experiments established many of the rules of heredity, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance.
- 12.0: Prelude to Mendel's Experiments and Heredity
- Genetics is the study of heredity. Johann Gregor Mendel set the framework for genetics long before chromosomes or genes had been identified, at a time when meiosis was not well understood. Mendel selected a simple biological system and conducted methodical, quantitative analyses using large sample sizes. Because of Mendel’s work, the fundamental principles of heredity were revealed.
- 12.1: Mendel’s Experiments and the Laws of Probability
- In 1865, Mendel presented the results of his experiments with nearly 30,000 pea plants to the local Natural History Society. He demonstrated that traits are transmitted faithfully from parents to offspring independently of other traits and in dominant and recessive patterns.
- 12.2: Characteristics and Traits
- The genetic makeup of peas consists of two similar or homologous copies of each chromosome, one from each parent. Each pair of homologous chromosomes has the same linear order of genes; hence peas are diploid organisms. The same is true for many other plants and for virtually all animals. Diploid organisms utilize meiosis to produce haploid gametes, which contain one copy of each homologous chromosome that unite at fertilization to create a diploid zygote.
- 12.3: Laws of Inheritance
- Mendel generalized the results of his pea-plant experiments into four postulates, some of which are sometimes called “laws,” that describe the basis of dominant and recessive inheritance in diploid organisms. As you have learned, more complex extensions of Mendelism exist that do not exhibit the same F2 phenotypic ratios (3:1). Nevertheless, these laws summarize the basics of classical genetics.
Thumbnail: Pea plants were used by Gregor Mendel to discover some fundamental laws of genetics. (Flicker-Christian Guthier-CC:A).