MadSci Network: Science History

Re: whose theory came first? mendel's w/ his peas or darwin's w/ his birds?

Date: Sat Mar 11 13:39:24 2000
Posted By: Dr. David Smerken, retired Ph.D., BIOANTHROPOLOGY, DNA.
Area of science: Science History
ID: 951945649.Sh

Dear Chrystie:

Darwin and Mendel were contemporaries.  While Darwin began to formulate his 
theory of Evolution by Natural Selection after his trip on the ship called 
the Beagle in the 1830s, he did not publish his theory until 1859 in a 
joint paper with Alfred Wallace (who had also discovered the same 
understanding of evolution).  Meanwhile, Gregor Mendel had begun 
experiments on the nature of inheritance on plants, mainly peas, in the 
1850s.  Darwin had formulated the theory of evolution by natural selection 
but without understanding the mechanism by which this occurred.  Darwin 
believed in older concepts of 'blending' and Lamarckianism but was 
apparently unaware of, or did not pay attention to, the experiments in 
genetics of the Austrian monk.  Mendel did write a letter to Darwin 
explaining his experiments but there is no evidence that Darwin 
incorporated Mendel's results into his theory.  For further information on 
this historical subject I suggest that you look at a biological 
anthropology text such as Human Biology and Behavior by Weiss and Mann or 
some of the essays in books by Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould.

Dr. Smerken

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