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Mendelian Controversies: A Botanical and Historical Review

Daniel J. Fairbanks and Bryce Rytting
American Journal of Botany
Vol. 88, No. 5 (May, 2001), pp. 737-752
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2657027
Page Count: 16
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Mendelian Controversies: A Botanical and Historical Review
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Abstract

Gregor Mendel was a 19th century priest and botanist who developed the fundamental laws of inheritance. The year 2000 marked a century since the rediscovery of those laws and the beginning of genetics. Although Mendel is now recognized as the founder of genetics, significant controversy ensued about his work throughout the 20th century. In this paper, we review five of the most contentious issues by looking at the historical record through the lens of current botanical science: (1) Are Mendel's data too good to be true? (2) Is Mendel's description of his experiments fictitious? (3) Did Mendel articulate the laws of inheritance attributed to him? (4) Did Mendel detect but not mention linkage? (5) Did Mendel support or oppose Darwin? A synthesis of botanical and historical evidence supports our conclusions: Mendel did not fabricate his data, his description of his experiments is literal, he articulated the laws of inheritance attributed to him insofar as was possible given the information he had, he did not detect linkage, and he neither strongly supported nor opposed Darwin.

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