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History of genetics
The history of genetics is generally held to have started with the work of an Augustinian monk, Gregor Mendel. His work on pea plants, published in 1866, described what came to be known as Mendelian inheritance. In the centuries before—and for several decades after—Mendel's work, a wide variety of theories of heredity proliferated. 1900 marked the "rediscovery of Mendel" by Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak, and by 1915 the basic principles of Mendelian genetics had been applied to a wide variety of organisms—most notably the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Led by Thomas Hunt Morgan and his fellow "drosophilists", geneticists developed the Mendelian-chromosome theory of heredity, which was widely accepted by 1925. Alongside experimental work, mathematicians developed the statistical framework of population genetics, bring genetical explanations into the study of evolution.
With the basic patterns of genetic inheritance established, many biologists turned to investigations of the physical nature of the gene. In the 1940s and early 1950s, experiments pointed to DNA as the portion of chromosomes (and perhaps other nucleoproteins) that held genes. A focus on new model organisms such as viruses and bacteria, along with the discovery of the double helical structure of DNA in 1953, marked the transition to the era of molecular genetics. In the following years, chemists developed techniques for sequencing both nucleic acids and proteins, while others worked out the relationship between the two forms of biological molecules: the genetic code. The regulation of gene expression became a central issue in the 1960s; by the 1970s gene expression could be controlled and manipulated through genetic engineering. In the last decades of the 20th century, many biologists focused on large-scale genetics projects, sequencing entire genomes.
Additional recommended knowledge
Pre-Mendelian ideas on heredity
The most influential early theories of heredity were that of Hippocrates and Aristotle. Hippocrates' theory (possibly based on the teachings of Anaxagoras) was similar to Darwin's later ideas on pangenesis, involving heredity material that collects from throughout the body. Aristotle suggested instead that the (nonphysical) form-giving principle of an organism was transmitted through semen, determining the shape of the female's menstrual blood through an organism's early development. For both Hippocrates and Aristotle—and nearly all Western scholars through to the late 19th century—the inheritance of acquired characters was a supposedly well-established fact that any adequate theory of heredity had to explain. At the same time, individual species were taken to have a fixed essence; such inherited changes were merely superficial.
Plant systematics and hybridization
In the 18th century, with increased knowledge of plant and animal diversity and the accompanying increased focus on taxonomy, new ideas about heredity began to appear. Linnaeus and others (among them Joseph Gottlieb Kölreuter, Carl Friedrich von Gärtner, and Charles Naudin) conducted extensive experiments with hybridization, especially species hybrids. Species hybridizers described a wide variety of inheritance phenomena, include hybrid sterility and the high variability of back-crosses.
Plant breeders were also developing an array of stable varieties in many important plant species. In the early 19th century, Augustin Sageret established the concept of dominance, recognizing that when some plant varieties are crossed, certain characters (present in one parent) usually appear in the offspring; he also found that some ancestral characters found in neither parent may appear in offspring. However, plant breeders made little attempt to develop a theoretical foundation for their work or to integrate their knowledge with work in physiology and natural history.
In breeding experiments between 1856 and 1865, Gregor Mendel first traced inheritance patterns of certain traits in pea plants and showed that they obeyed simple statistical rules. Although not all features show these patterns of Mendelian inheritance, his work acted as a proof that application of statistics to inheritance could be highly useful. Since that time many more complex forms of inheritance have been demonstrated.
From his statistical analysis Mendel defined a concept that he described as an allele, which was the fundamental unit of heredity. The term allele as Mendel used it is nearly synonymous with the term gene, and now means a specific variant of a particular gene.
Mendel's work was published in 1866 as Experiments on Plant Hybridization in the Proceedings of the Natural History Society of Brünn, following two lectures he gave on the work in early 1865.
Mendel's work was published in a relatively obscure scientific journal, and it was not given any attention in the scientific community. Instead, discussions about modes of heredity were galvanized by Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection, in which mechanisms of non-Lamarckian heredity seemed to be required. Darwin's own theory of heredity, pangenesis, did not meet with any large degree of acceptance. A more mathematical version of pangenesis, one which dropped much of Darwin's Lamarckian holdovers, was developed as the "biometrical" school of heredity by Darwin's cousin, Francis Galton. Under Galton and his successor Karl Pearson, the biometrical school attempted to build statistical models for heredity and evolution, with some limited but real success, though the exact methods of heredity were unknown and largely unquestioned.
The significance of Mendel's work was not understood until early in the twentieth century, after his death, when his research was re-discovered by other scientists working on similar problems. Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak
There was then a feud between Bateson and Pearson over the hereditary mechanism. Fisher solved this in The Correlation Between Relatives on the Supposition of Mendelian Inheritance
The DNA era
The genomics era
See genomics, history of genomics
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "History_of_genetics". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|