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Give it up for Mendel!

Gene ExpressionBy Razib KhanFebruary 17, 2006 12:50 PM


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With all the hoopla over Darwin Day (justified in my opinion) I thought I'd point you to this article, Gregor Mendel: The father of genetics. The contemporaneous insights of Charles Darwin and Gregor Mendel illustrate the beauty of science, nature's gift to us in its underlying unity of form. Darwin looked at the big picture and saw the compelling connection between biological variation across space and time and natural selection. Mendel's experiments elucidated the most atomic and elementary reactions which buttressed the grand arcs of natural history and the flow of selection. Though the underlying unity eluded the first generation of evolutionary biologists after Darwin and Mendel the inevitable reconciliation between genetics and Darwinian evolution was forged by R.A. Fisher in 1918 (here is the paper that did it). Because of the majestic scope of Darwin's ideas he precedes Mendel in the scientific chain of being, but just as great strategicists need the aid of tacticians, evolutionary biology as a discipline would not exist without the insights of Gregor Mendel.^1 1 - Mendelian genetics was an inevitable discovery, as the nearly simultaneous rediscovery of "Mendel's Laws" around 1900 show us. But so what? Newtonian Mechanics was probably inevitable (assuming a scientific culture as we know it), but Isaac Newton was first and foremost. The magnitude of Mendel's discovery was relatively modest compared to that of Newton's, but the vector is the same.

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