Gregor Mendel & Genetics: Experiments, Laws & Discovery

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  • 0:01 Gregor Mendel
  • 1:05 The Experiments
  • 2:25 Findings
  • 3:55 Laws
  • 4:45 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kelly Robson

Kelly has taught High School Science and Applied Communications. She holds an Education Specialist Degree in Ed. Leadership.

Gregor Mendel is currently known as the Father of Modern Genetics. This lesson goes through a brief history of his life, workings as a scientist, and his findings.

Gregor Mendel

Gregor Mendel is known as the Father of Modern Genetics. He is a pretty big name in the science world. However, he did not receive any of this credit while he was alive. We'll come back to this later.

Mendel was born in Austria in 1822. His parents were farmers. When he was young and on the farm, Mendel became very interested in plants, trees, and fruit. He was very good at school and soon found himself away from the farm and into schools and religion. Over his lifetime Mendel became a teacher, priest, and scientist.

Mendel conducted his now-famous experiments from 1856 to 1863 while he was an Augustinian monk in what is now part of the Czech Republic. Here, he was able to tend to the garden at the monastery. His work was published in 1866. However, it was not until the 1900s when three scientists, Erich Tschermak, Hugo de Vries, and Carl Correns, rediscovered Mendel's work and confirmed his findings. It was then that Mendel's experiments changed the world of genetics forever.

The Experiments

Gregor Mendel spent those eight years studying tens of thousands of plants. He mainly studied pea plants because they had distinguished characteristics and they were quick to grow. Mendel would create hybrids from the plants. Hybrids are the blending of two things to make one. An example of a new technology hybrid is an engine that runs on both electricity and gas (two things to make one engine).

Mendel's hybrid was two pea plants. He would act as the pollinator, carefully controlling which two plants would create a new generation. While working with the tens of thousands of plants, Mendel would observe the seven different traits from these plants:

  1. Flower color - purple or white
  2. Flower position - axial or terminal
  3. Stem length - short or tall
  4. Seed shapes - round or wrinkled
  5. Seed color - yellow or green
  6. Pod shape - inflated or constricted
  7. Pod color - yellow or green

Mendel would cross-pollinate the different types of pea plants. Sometimes the plants would have the same characteristics, and sometimes they would have different characteristics. He would then observe the next generation of plants that were created. He would then pollinate these plants and keep on going.


Before and during Mendel's experiments, heredity, the transmission of traits from parents to their offspring, was believed to just be a watered-down blend or combination of traits from the parents to their offspring. However, Mendel's observations from these experiments showed that this was not always the case.

Other scientists conducted similar experiments to Gregor Mendel's pea plant experiments. However, their experiments did not last as long, nor were they as extensive as Mendel's. They were not able to observe how sometimes-hidden characteristics would appear after many generations of being absent.

While conducting his experiments, Mendel began to see these hidden characteristics make a comeback. They would appear in the offspring of parents who did not show any signs of these traits. This goes against the blending theory.

Mendel soon developed a theory that individuals inherit (receive from their parents) one unit from each parent per trait. So, an offspring would receive one flower color unit from each of its parents. Mendel used the word allele to describe the individual trait from one parent. The alleles together form one unit, or gene, that gives the offspring its characteristic or unit. To this day, we continue to call the units that get passed down from parents to offspring genes.

Mendel also observed that some of the traits were more prevalent than the others. Certain traits seemed to dominate other traits. Hence, Mendel coined the term dominant for a trait that will always show up when present, and recessive for a trait that can be hidden until it is the only one available.

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