Experiments on Plant Hybridization
Gregor Mendel, Austrian scientist and monk, is recognized as one of the most significant thinkers in the area of plant biology and the father of the science of genetics. After years of detailed study involving the plants in his monastery’s gardens – and some 29,000 pea plants in particular – Mendel discovered the ways that dominant and recessive genes operate to produce variations in species.
Mendel’s primary area of interest was in fact meteorology, and his theories regarding plant hybrids were widely criticized in his day and then, for some decades, largely ignored. Rediscovered in the early twentieth century, however, his work on hybridization combined with Darwin’s theory of natural selection to provide the very basis for much of what we now know about heredity and genetic science. His work produced two distinct but related laws of science, together referred to as Medel’s Laws of Inheritance: the Law of Segregation, which outlines the existence of dominant and recessive genes and the ways that interact in the development of sex cells, and the Law of Independent Assortment, which states that traits are inherited independently of one another – i.e. though both inherited, the colour of one’s eyes and the size of one’s feet bear no relation to one another.