Daniel J. Fairbanks and Scott Abbott, GENETICS
Gregor Mendel’s classic paper, Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden (Experiments on Plant Hybrids), was published in 1866, hence 2016 is its sesquicentennial. Mendel completed his experiments in 1863 and shortly thereafter began compiling the results and writing his paper, which he presented in meetings of the Natural Science Society in Brünn in February and March of 1865. Mendel owned a personal copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species, a German translation published in 1863, and it contains his marginalia. Its publication date indicates that Mendel’s study of Darwin’s book could have had no influence while he was conducting his experiments but its publication date coincided with the period of time when he was preparing his paper, making it possible that Darwin’s writings influenced Mendel’s interpretations and theory. Based on this premise, we prepared a Darwinized English translation of Mendel’s paper by comparing German terms Mendel employed with the same terms in the German translation of Origin of Species in his possession, then using Darwin’s counterpart English words and phrases as much as possible in our translation. We found a substantially higher use of these terms in the final two (10th and 11th) sections of Mendel’s paper, particularly in one key paragraph, where Mendel reflects on evolutionary issues, providing strong evidence of Darwin’s influence on Mendel.
How Mendel Channeled Darwin
John Farrell, Forbes
One of the great ‘what if’ questions that has fascinated historians of biology is how differently Darwinian evolution would have been received had Darwin known of the work of Gregor Mendel, the Augustinian monk who is now considered the founder of the science of genetics.
As a result, for the later editions of his book, Darwin missed an opportunity to adopt Mendel’s model of inheritance, because he himself did not have one.
As a new paper on the topic puts it: “A few pages into the first chapter of the 1859 first edition of Darwin’s Origin of Species, readers encounter a sentence that succinctly states what was true at the time: ‘The laws governing inheritance are quite unknown’.”
Mendel was only just beginning to unravel them.
As Daniel J. Fairbanks and Scott Abbott write in their fascinating article, ‘Darwin’s Influence on Mendel: Evidence from a New Translation of Mendel’s Paper,’ the lament that Darwin knew nothing of Mendel has unfortunately eclipsed evidence that Mendel, by contrast, was well acquainted with Darwin’s writings.
Although Mendel probably knew little about Darwin when conducting his pea experiments, according to Fairbanks and Abbott, the situation changed when Mendel obtained a copy of Origin of Species in 1863 when he was in the midst of his experiments.
Darwin published Origin of Species in 1859, which was right about the time that Mendel began conducting his now famous experiments on garden peas.
But Darwin never knew of Mendel. He never read his published findings outlining the basic laws of genetic inheritance. [And though Mendel visited London briefly in 1862, Darwin was not in town and Mendel did not speak English.]