Brno marks anniversary of founder of modern genetics
The Moravian city of Brno has been marking a double anniversary this week: 183 years since the birth of the founder of modern genetics Gregor Mendel, and 150 years since his discovery that led to uncovering the science behind heredity. St. Thomas’s Abbey in Brno’s Old Town – in whose garden Mendel made his famous discoveries growing peas, and which today houses the Mendel Museum – hosted the celebrations on Monday, including an audiovisual show created by award-winning American “biomedical animator” Drew Berry, backed by music from Czech-based composer Duncan Hendy, and performed by the Brno Philharmonic. I spoke with Ondřej Dostál, director of the Mendel Museum, and asked him to sum up Mendel’s life and work:
How did Mendel become interested in genetics, or heredity, or growing plants and discovering their characteristics?
“He started as a friar in the Old Brno Monastery, and ended up working in the St. Anne’s Hospital. The abbot C.F. Napp decided to send Mendel to undertake some studies, and he begin serving as a teacher. Mendel started at St. Thomas’s Abbey researching peas after coming back from Vienna, where he studied at the University of Vienna.”
So what was Mendel looking for? Because he obviously wasn’t looking to discover genetics. What was he doing with those peas?
And what he discovered wasn’t recognized as being any kind of breakthrough until after Mendel’s death, is that correct?
“Yes. He gave a lecture on his research in 1865 to a meeting of the Natural History Society in Brno. In 1866 he published his work in the journal of this society. But the scientists in Brno, and the journal’s readers didn’t understand Mendel’s ideas. And his work was rediscovered at the start of the 20th century, by three separate scientists around the world, who all identified his key role as the father and founder of genetics.”
The city of Brno has just been celebrating the double anniversary related to Mendel. Artist Drew Berry presented an audiovisual show. So can you briefly describe some of the events that have been happening.