What? Mendel was an actual person?

In all of my biology classes – and believe me, I’ve taken a lot of them – Mendel is mentioned throughout, but only in terms of his experiments and never as a person. Perhaps this is why I enjoyed the little fictional excerpts from Mendel’s life in Mendel’s Dwarf even more than I enjoyed the primary plot. His musings while tending his plants, the stolen moments with Frau Rotwang gave a unique glimpse into the life of Gregor Mendel that the modern reader knows nothing about. Sure we can all tell you about his pea plants to some degree, but what conjectures do we have towards his friendships, his hobbies, or his love-life? Not many. Simon Mawer does a pretty cool thing in this novel by giving a tangible personality and “human-ness” to Mendel (although it’s always a little gutsy to give too much of a concrete personality to a long-dead historical figure).

Aside from this thought, Benedict Lambert has a comment towards the end of the novel that I saw as very profound: Mendel was truly ahead of his time. Of course, this sentiment is given to many artists, scientists, inventors, etc, but is a statement that is beyond true regarding Mendel. The passage is a little long to quote here but it comes from page 257 if you’re interested. Lambert speculates that great scientists such as Watson and Crick though brilliant, were smack-dab in the middle of their time. His argument says that since people such as Wilkins, Franklin, and Pauling were all working on the same quandary, Watson and Crick weren’t really doing anything unique. They were just the ones that were lucky enough to find the answer first. This was something that I had never even thought about.  I guess I had always assumed that anything as spectacular as discovering the structure of DNA would be way ahead of anyone’s time. But it seemed that the “time” was quite ready for that discovery. Mendel, on the other hand, was an extremely original character. He dabbled in science that none of his colleagues could even comprehend and his diligent (and specific) note-taking was considered certifiably insane.

I guess what I’ve been trying to say is that Mendel deserves all the credit he has ever been given and then some. I also think that it would be worth anyone’s time to truly discover Mendel’s mysterious personality also because I think there is more to him than the contemplative friar seen in our textbooks.

Emily B.

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~ by bainej on April 11, 2010.

One Response to “What? Mendel was an actual person?”

  1. You are very right. Mendel was before his time. His work wasn’t accepted and his laws of heredity had to be “rediscovered” later on.

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