Which 19th century Austrian monk and biologist is known as the father of modern genetics?

Question: Which 19th century Austrian monk and biologist is known as the father of modern genetics?

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Gregor Mendel.

Gregor Johann Mendel, a 19th-century Austrian monk, and biologist, is often referred to as the “Father of Modern Genetics” due to his pioneering work on the inheritance of traits in pea plants. Born on July 20, 1822, in Heinzendorf, Austria (now Hynčice, Czech Republic), Mendel conducted his groundbreaking experiments at the St. Thomas Augustinian monastery in Brünn, which is today’s Brno in the Czech Republic.

Mendel’s studies primarily revolved around the crossbreeding of different varieties of pea plants, through which he aimed to observe the inheritance patterns of particular traits. Over nearly a decade, from 1856 to 1863, he meticulously documented his findings from crossing pea plants that exhibited distinct characteristics, such as different flower colors (purple versus white) or seed shapes (round versus wrinkled).

From these experiments, Mendel formulated two foundational principles, which later became known as Mendel’s Laws of Inheritance:

  1. The Law of Segregation: This states that an individual inherits two alleles for each gene, one from each parent. During the formation of gametes (eggs and sperm), these alleles segregate or separate so that each gamete carries only one allele for each gene.
  2. The Law of Independent Assortment: This posits that genes for different traits assort, or segregate, independently of one another when gametes are formed.

Mendel presented his findings to the Natural History Society of Brünn in 1865, and his work was published a year later. Surprisingly, his discoveries initially went largely unnoticed by the scientific community. It wasn’t until the early 20th century, decades after Mendel’s death in 1884, that the significance of his work was recognized. By that time, scientists, independently of Mendel, were arriving at similar conclusions about inheritance. Upon discovering Mendel’s earlier publications, they acknowledged the monk’s priority, and his principles became central to the emerging field of genetics.

Today, Mendel’s contributions serve as a fundamental basis for the study of genetics and heredity, demonstrating how traits are passed down through generations and providing the groundwork for modern genetic research and biotechnology.