Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws?

Date:
March 4, 2009
Source:
Journal of Biology
Summary:
Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his monastery garden with no more technology than Darwin had in his garden at Down House. So why couldn’t Darwin have done it too? A Journal of Biology article argues that Darwin’s background, influences and research focus gave him a viewpoint that prevented him from interpreting the evidence that was all around him, even in his own work.

Mendel solved the logic of inheritance in his monastery garden with no more technology than Darwin had in his garden at Down House. So why couldn’t Darwin have done it too? A Journal of Biology article argues that Darwin’s background, influences and research focus gave him a viewpoint that prevented him from interpreting the evidence that was all around him, even in his own work.

Related Articles


Darwin’s commitment to quantitative variation as the raw material of evolution meant he could not see the logic of inheritance, argues Jonathan Howard of the University of Cologne, Germany.

“Quantitative variation was at the heart of Darwin’s evolution, and quantitative variation is the last place where clean Mendelian inheritance can be seen,” says Howard. “Darwin boxed himself in, unable to see the laws of inheritance in continuous variation, unable to see the real importance of discontinuous variation where the laws of inheritance could be discerned.”

Moravian priest and scientist Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884) studied clear-cut, inherited traits in pea plants, which he grew in the monastery gardens in Brno. Mendel showed that trait inheritance follow simple laws, which were later named after him. Mendel's work was rediscovered at the beginning of the 20th century, and laid the foundations for genetics. Mendel had a good understanding of biology, but his understanding of physics, statistics and probability theory were far superior to Darwin’s.

Darwin’s view of biology was greatly influenced by geologist Charles Lyell during and after the 1831-1836 Beagle voyage, leading to Darwin’s focus on infinitely tiny differences between individuals giving infinitesimal advantages or disadvantages in survival. For Darwin, selection of these variants over hundreds of thousands of generations was the critical process in evolution.

Darwin’s book The Different Forms of Flowers on Plants of the Same Species details breeding experiments involving a well-defined “unit” character, yielding clear data interpretable as ‘Mendelian’ ratios. But these went unremarked by Darwin, who insisted, because of his belief that only quantitative variation contributed to evolution, that the rules of inheritance were too complex and not ready for definitive analysis.

Heredity and variation played central roles in Darwin’s development of the theory of evolution by natural selection. His view that variation is caused by random, quasi-physical events outside environmental control, is much as we believe today. But he never freed himself from the incorrect belief that environmentally determined changes could also be inherited, another victim of his focus on quantitative characters, height, weight and so on, which are strongly influenced by environmental effects.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Journal of Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Howard et al. Why didn't Darwin discover Mendel's laws? Journal of Biology, 2009; 8 (2): 15 DOI: 10.1186/jbiol123

Cite This Page:

Journal of Biology. "Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 March 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227072739.htm>.
Journal of Biology. (2009, March 4). Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227072739.htm
Journal of Biology. "Why Didn’t Darwin Discover Mendel’s Laws?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090227072739.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

Research on Bats Could Help Develop Drugs Against Ebola

AFP (Nov. 28, 2014) In Africa's only biosafety level 4 laboratory, scientists have been carrying out experiments on bats to understand how virus like Ebola are being transmitted, and how some of them resist to it. Duration: 01:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

New Dinosaur Species Found in Museum Collection

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 27, 2014) A British palaeontologist has discovered a new species of dinosaur while studying fossils in a Canadian museum. Pentaceratops aquilonius was related to Triceratops and lived at the end of the Cretaceous Period, around 75 million years ago. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Tryptophan Isn't Making You Sleepy On Thanksgiving

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) Tryptophan, a chemical found naturally in turkey meat, gets blamed for sleepiness after Thanksgiving meals. But science points to other culprits. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Classic Hollywood Memorabilia Goes Under the Hammer

Reuters - Entertainment Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) The iconic piano from "Casablanca" and the Cowardly Lion suit from "The Wizard of Oz" fetch millions at auction. Sara Hemrajani reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins