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J R Soc Med. 2002 November; 95(11): 576–577.
PMCID: PMC1279276

Mendel—both ignored and forgotten

Contesting the notion that Mendel's work languished unread for thirty-four years, Dr Ross Kessel (September 2002 JRSM1) writes of a dozen references to it in the scientific literature between first publication and ‘rediscovery’. It seems necessary to detail the twelve references to Mendel's paper2 between 1866 and 1900. They are given in Orel's biography of Gregor Mendel3 of 1996, and included slight mentions in the German botanical journal Flora in 1866, 1867 and 1872, and the Proceedings of the Viennese Academy of Science in 1871 and 1879. The paper was mentioned in the thesis of C A Blomberg for Stockholm University in 1872, and in the thesis of I F Schmalhausen for St Petersburg University in 1874. It was listed in the Royal Society's Catalogue of Scientific papers (1864-1873) issued in 1879;4:338.

There was a more substantial reference to Mendel in a book4 by Hermann Hoffmann in 1869 on the determination of species and varieties, written to refute Darwin's theory of evolution. There was mention of Mendel's pea experiments in the book5 of 1881 by W O Focke, which was then cited in two books6,7 by L H Bailey in 1892 and 1894. And G J Romanes included Mendel's name, which he had found in Focke's book, in a list of hybridists in the section on ‘Hybridism’ in the Encyclopaedia Britannica8 of 1881-1895.

All this is hardly a reason for refuting that Mendel's work was both ignored and forgotten for 34 years until its importance was recognized by William Bateson in his paper9 published in 1901.

References

1. Kessel R. Mendel—forgotten or ignored? J R Soc Med 2002;95: 474 [PMC free article] [PubMed]
2. Mendel G. Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden. Verhandl d Naturfsch Ver in Brünn 1866;4: 3-47
3. Orel V. Gregor Mendel—the First Geneticist. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996
4. Hoffmann H. Untersuchungen zur Bestimmung des Werthes von Species und Varietät: ein Beitrag zur Kritik der Darwinschen Hypothese. Giessen: J Richter, 1869
5. Focke WO. Die Pflanzen-Mischlinge. Ein Beitrag zur Biologie der Gewächse. Berlin: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1881
6. Bailey LH. Cross-breeding and hybridizing. In: The Rural Library Series, Vol. 1. New York: Rural Publishing, 1892: 1-44
7. Bailey LH. Plant Breeding. New York: Macmillan, 1895
8. Romanes GJ. Hybridism. In Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol. 12, 9th edn. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1895 1881: 422-6
9. Bateson W. Problems of heredity as a subject for horticultural investigation. J R Hort Soc 1901;25: 54-61

Articles from Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine are provided here courtesy of Royal Society of Medicine Press