Navigation Links
Why didn't Darwin discover Mendel's laws?
Date:2/27/2009

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.

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.

This year marks the bicentennial of Darwin's birthday, and 150 years since his book "The Origin of Species" was first published.


'/>"/>

Contact: Charlotte Webber
charlotte.webber@biomedcentral.com
44-020-763-19980
BioMed Central
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Darwin Symposium at Field Museum offers broad overview of his science and its impact
2. Cosmopolitan microbes -- hitchhikers on Darwins dust
3. The surprising story of Charles Darwin and his homeopathic doctor
4. Darwin was wrong about the wild origin of the chicken
5. Study shows Darwin was wrong about the origins of chickens
6. Armored fish study helps strengthen Darwins natural selection theory
7. GEN joins Charles Darwin 2009 celebration
8. Darwins legacy in 21st century biology
9. Darwins seminal impact on biology, anthropology, philosophy and psychology
10. 150 years of Darwins landmark book spawns international conference
11. Darwin anniversary heralds new conservation research era for Northern Ireland
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/30/2017)... March 30, 2017 The research team of ... three-dimensional (3D) fingerprint identification by adopting ground breaking 3D fingerprint minutiae ... realm of speed and accuracy for use in identification, crime investigation, ... cost. ... A research ...
(Date:3/29/2017)...  higi, the health IT company that operates the ... , today announced a Series B investment from ... The new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to ... population health activities through the collection and workflow integration ... collects and secures data today on behalf of over ...
(Date:3/27/2017)... , March 27, 2017  Catholic Health Services ... Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Analytics for achieving Stage ... Model sm . In addition, CHS previously earned ... hospitals using an electronic medical record (EMR). ... high level of EMR usage in an outpatient ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/12/2017)... Iowa (PRWEB) , ... October 12, 2017 , ... ... based in Vilnius, Lithuania, announced today that they have entered into a multiyear ... is to provide CRISPR researchers with additional tools for gene editing across all ...
(Date:10/12/2017)... San Diego, CA (PRWEB) , ... ... ... BioInformatics (https://www.onramp.bio/ ) has launched Rosalindâ„¢, the first-ever genomics analysis platform ... eliminating all bioinformatics complexity. Named in honor of pioneering researcher Rosalind Franklin, ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... Palo Alto, CA, USA (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... ... is set to take place on 7th and 8th June 2018 in San Francisco, ... and policy influencers as well as several distinguished CEOs, board directors and government officials ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 11, 2017 , ... Disappearing forests ... the lives of over 5.5 million people each year. Especially those living in larger ... startup Treepex - based in one of the most pollution-affected countries globally - decided ...
Breaking Biology Technology: