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Experiments on Plant Hybridization

Written in 1865 by Gregor Mendel, Experiments on Plant Hybridization was the result after years spent studying genetic traits in pea plants. Mendel read his paper to the Natural History Society of Brunn in Bohemia at the meetings held on February 8th and March 8th of that year. The paper was later published in Proceedings of the Natural History Society in 1866. In his paper, Mendel compared seven discrete traits:

  1. Smoothness of the seeds.
  2. Color of the seeds.
  3. Color of the seed coats.
  4. Shape of the pods.
  5. Color of unripe pods.
  6. Position of flowers.
  7. Length of the stems.

Through experimentation, Mendel discovered that one inheritable trait would invariably be dominant to its recessive alternative. This model, later known as Mendelian inheritance or Mendelian genetics, provided an alternative to blending inheritance, which was the prevailing theory at the time. Unfortunately, Mendel's work received little attention from the scientific community and was largely forgotten. It was not until the early 20th century that Mendel's work was rediscovered and his ideas used to help form the modern synthesis.

It is interesting to note that Mendel happened to choose a plant for which the traits were discrete. Had Mendel chosen a plant for which multiple genes are needed to express a trait, he may never have arrived at his genetic laws.

Some scientists and historians are suspicious of the near-perfect ratios in which Mendel's pea plants grew. However, the ratios themselves are easily verifiable.

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