The father of genetics
Gregor Mendel was a monk in the 1800s and is best known for his extensive research into the inheritance of physical features in pea plants. Mendel is often referred to as the ‘father of genetics’ because he was the first person to systematically study the patterns of inheritance. He also, over 100 years before DNA was discovered, established the basic principles of genetic inheritance that still hold true today.
Mendel chose garden peas for their availability, the ease of controlling mating between plants and for their distinctive characters. A character is any heritable feature that shows variation between individuals in a population. The different forms the character can take are called traits.
Mendel’s research focused on seven characters of garden peas. Each of these characters has two forms. Mendel investigated how each of the characters was inherited by first establishing populations of true-breeding plants. A true-breeding individual is one that always produces offspring with the same form of the character as the parent individual.