Readers' Commentary on Mendel's Introduction (English)


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By the time Mendel worked, considerable expertise in both the technical aspects and the experiential results of hybridization existed among amateur horticulturists and, especially, professional nurserymen. However, this practical knowledge, like the work also being done in vegetable physiology, remained largely separate from botany, which at the time meant taxonomy. There was a very lively scientific literature in gardening and agricultural periodicals on the subject, and issues of hybridization and inheritance were dealt with in such works as the Amaryllidaceae by William Herbert (1837), but a barrier remained between this experiential work, carried out by people whose primary qualifications came from outside the emerging professional world, and more academic botany. Hence, perhaps, both the indifference with which Mendel's paper was greeted, and the surprise at Darwin's methodology in the Origin of Species, which depended heavily on the knowledge of nurserymen, farmers and gardeners. See also note 5 to section 1 on the Notes page.
Abigail Lustig, Department of History, Office for the History of Science and Technology, Univ. of California, Berkeley -- ajlustig@uclink2


Mendel's comments here make it clear that he was aware of the controversy generated by the 1859 publication of Darwin's "On the Origin of Species...".Why else would it take courage and be so far reaching? The pity is, Mendel was not much of a public relations person. If he had named his paper more appropriately he might have provoked some interest. As it was, "Experiments in Plant Hybridization" (Not more of those!) probably put off the average potential reader. How about "New Discoveries in Heredity"? Or "A New Mechanism for Inheritance of Particles in Plants"?
Dave Williams, Annapolis, Maryland --

i think he just had a very Austrian sense of humor.
k.t.ruiz, california, usa --