Gregor Johann Mendel

The humble genius was born on 20 July 1822 into a German-speaking family in the village of Hynčice. Proving to be a talented child, the local school in his home village recommended the young Johann Mendel for the Piarist school in the town of Lipník nad Bečvou. At the age of 12 he enrolled at the grammar school in the city of Opava. His parents could not provide for him during his studies, so Johann started tutoring his less talented classmates to earn money. In 1840 he began his studies at the Philosophical Institute in Olomouc. Since his application required a curriculum vitae written in Czech, he had to learn the language. In 1843 Johann Mendel entered the Augustinian Order at the monastery in Old Brno, and took the monastic name of Gregor. This name is traditionally listed before his Christian name.

Gregor Mendel

Joining the order

Joining the order meant new opportunities in education and research for Gregor Mendel. Thanks to the then abbot, Abbot Napp, he was able to study in Vienna. This played a key part in his later experiments with the common pea and other plants, because he had been educated in the exact sciences. In terms of mathematics and physics, he learnt to carry out statistical analyses, to plan experiments, and in general to apply the scientific method in his work.

Pea plant cross experiments

Pokusům se věnoval 9 let. Ze závěrů jeho bádání vznikly tři zákony, dnes známé jako Mendelovy zákony. V roce 1865 odpřednášel výsledky svých pokusů, ohlas na jeho práci byl však minimální. Uznání se dočkal až v roce 1900, kdy byly jeho objevy potvrzeny a Gregor Mendel byl nazván „otcem genetiky“.

Becoming abbot

In 1868, Mendel was elected head of the Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas, meaning he had little time for his experiments. However, he did find time for two other hobbies – beekeeping and meteorology. Based on his own design, he had an apiary, including a small workroom, built in the monastery garden. In addition, three times a day he conducted meteorological measurements in several parts of the monastery, regarding which he kept scrupulous records.

Gregor Johann Mendel died on 6 January 1884 and is buried in the Augustinian tomb in Brno’s Central Cemetery.

The project G. J. Mendel’s Legacy to Science, Culture, and Humanity is co-funded by the programme INTERREG V-A Austria – Czech Republic.