Gregor Mendel’s Peas (Part 1)

This is the first of two articles looking at the life and work of Gregor Mendel- the 19th century monk who founded the science of genetics.

Gregor Mendel discovered how genes are passed from parent to offspring- including the offspring of all plants, animals and humans.

You may wish to refer to Explaining Genetic Inheritance before reading this article.

Gregor Mendel-who was he?

Gregor Mendel was born in 1822 in Silesia in what is now the Czech Republic. From a very young age he was interested in gardening, an interest he learnt from his father who had been a farmer.

In 1843 at the age of 21 he became a monk at the Abbey of St.Thomas in the city of Brno in the Czech Republic.

Between 1851 and 1853 he was sponsored by the Abbey to study physics at the University of Vienna in Austria. While studying in Vienna he learned valuable lessons about how to prepare, carry out and analyze results of scientific experiments.

After completing his studies in Vienna he returned to the Abbey to lead the life of a monk; he also developed an interest in researching heredity.

He started off by studying the heredity of mice before switching his attention to the common garden pea. (Pisum sativum)

Reasons why Mendel choose the garden pea for his research

1) The common garden pea is easy to cross pollinate

The common garden pea is fast growing and easy to ‘cross pollinate’ artificially with other pea plants.’Cross pollination’ is achieved if you stroke the hairs of a small paint brush….

onto the anthers of a mature flower.

With pollen sticking to its hairs you then stroke the brush onto the stigma of a second mature flower. This starts the process of fertilisation of the ovules and the production of seeds. (Visit BBC Bitesize for more information about how this happens.) However, you must make sure that the anthers of the second flower have previously been removed so that self pollination cannot take place.