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Gregor Johann Mendel
Gregor Mendel oval.jpg
Born (1822-07-20)July 20, 1822
Heinzendorf, Flag of the Habsburg Monarchy.svg Austrian Empire
Died January 6, 1884(1884-01-06) (aged 61)
Alma mater University of Vienna
Known for Founding modern genetics
Scientific career
Fields Genetics
Institutions Abbey of St. Thomas in Brünn

Gregor Johann Mendel (Heinzendorf, Austria, 20 July 1822 – Brünn, Austro-Hungary, 6 January 1884) was an Austrian monk and botanist.

He founded genetics by his work cross-breeding pea plants. He discovered dominant and recessive characters (genes) from the crosses he performed on the plants in his greenhouse. What he learnt is known today as Mendelian inheritance.

His work was not appreciated at first, but was rediscovered in 1900 by Carl Correns and Hugo de Vries.

Ealy life and education

Mendel was born into a German-speaking family in Heinzendorf bei Odrau (now Hynčice, Czech Republic), Austrian Empire. He was the son of Anton and Rosine (Schwirtlich) Mendel and had two sisters, Veronika and Theresia. They lived and worked on a farm which had been owned by the Mendel family for at least 130 years. During his childhood, Mendel worked as a gardener and studied beekeeping. As a young man, he attended gymnasium in Troppau (now Opava, Czech Republic). He had to take four months off during his gymnasium studies due to illness. From 1840 to 1843, he studied practical and theoretical philosophy and physics at the Philosophical Institute of the University of Olmütz (now Olomouc, Czech Republic), taking another year off because of illness.

In 1851, he was sent to the University of Vienna to study under the sponsorship of Abbot Cyril František Napp [cz] so that he could get more formal education.


Mendel became a monk because he struggled financially and it was the only way he could obtain an education without having to pay for it himself.

In 1853, Mendel worked as a teacher, principally of physics. In 1867, he replaced Napp as abbot of the monastery.

After he was elevated as abbot in 1868, his scientific work largely ended, as Mendel became overburdened with administrative responsibilities.


Mendel died on 6 January 1884, at the age of 61, in Brünn, Moravia, Austria-Hungary (now Czech Republic), from chronic nephritis. Czech composer Leoš Janáček played the organ at his funeral.

The experiments

Mendel worked with seven characteristics of pea plants: plant height, pod shape and color, seed shape and color, and flower position and color. Taking seed color as an example, Mendel showed that when a true-breeding yellow pea and a true-breeding green pea were cross-bred their offspring always produced yellow seeds. However, in the next generation, the green peas reappeared at a ratio of 1 green to 3 yellow. To explain this phenomenon, Mendel coined the terms "recessive" and "dominant" in reference to certain traits.

In the above example, the green trait, which seems to have vanished in the first generation, is recessive and the yellow is dominant.

He published his work in 1866, demonstrating the actions of invisible "factors"—now called genes - in predictably determining the traits of an organism.

Mendel began his studies on heredity using mice. He was at St. Thomas's Abbey but his bishop did not like one of his friars studying animal sex, so Mendel switched to plants. Mendel also bred bees in a bee house that was built for him, using bee hives that he designed. He also studied astronomy and meteorology, founding the 'Austrian Meteorological Society' in 1865. The majority of his published works were related to meteorology.

Mendel also experimented with hawkweed (Hieracium) and honeybees. He published a report on his work with hawkweed, a group of plants of great interest to scientists at the time because of their diversity. However, the results of Mendel's inheritance study in hawkweeds was unlike his results for peas; the first generation was very variable and many of their offspring were identical to the maternal parent. In his correspondence with Carl Nägeli he discussed his results but was unable to explain them. It was not appreciated until the end of the nineteenth century that many hawkweed species were apomictic, producing most of their seeds through an asexual process.

None of his results on bees survived, except for a passing mention in the reports of Moravian Apiculture Society. All that is known definitely is that he used Cyprian and Carniolan bees, which were particularly aggressive to the annoyance of other monks and visitors of the monastery such that he was asked to get rid of them. Mendel, on the other hand, was fond of his bees, and referred to them as "my dearest little animals".

He also described novel plant species, and these are denoted with the botanical author abbreviation "Mendel".

The profound significance of Mendel's work was not recognized until the turn of the 20th century (more than three decades later) with the rediscovery of his laws. Hugo de Vries and Carl Correns independently verified several of Mendel's experimental findings in 1900, ushering in the modern age of genetics.

Mendelian paradox

In 1936, Ronald Fisher reconstructed Mendel's experiments, analyzed the results and found the ratio of dominant to recessive phenotypes (e.g. yellow versus green peas; round versus wrinkled peas) to be implausibly and consistently too close to the expected ratio of 3 to 1. Fisher asserted that "the data of most, if not all, of the experiments have been falsified so as to agree closely with Mendel's expectations". Mendel's alleged observations, according to Fisher, were "abominable", "shocking", and "cooked".

Other scholars agree with Fisher that Mendel's various observations come uncomfortably close to Mendel's expectations. Fisher's analysis gave rise to the Mendelian paradox: Mendel's reported data are, statistically speaking, too good to be true, yet "everything we know about Mendel suggests that he was unlikely to engage in either deliberate fraud or in unconscious adjustment of his observations". A number of writers have attempted to resolve this paradox.


Mount Mendel in New Zealand's Paparoa Range was named after him in 1970 by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.

Interesting facts about Gregor Mdendel

  • The house where Mendel was born is now a museum.
  • Mendel couldn't afford to pay for his studies, so his sister, Theresia, gave him her dowry. Mendel later helped support her three sons, two of whom became doctors.
  • Born Johann Mendel, he was given the name Gregor when he entered the Augustinian St Thomas's Abbey in Brünn (now Brno, Czech Republic) and began his training as a priest.
  • During his career, Mendel took an exam to become a certified teacher several times and each time failed the oral part.
  • The exhumation of Mendel's corpse in 2021 delivered some physiognomic details like body height (168 cm (66 in)). His genome was analysed, revealing that Mendel was predisposed to heart problems.

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