Oh lord. A historical figure. The amount of leeway here is frightening. Anybody? Throughout history?!
Eventually, I decided on Gregor Mendel. Who’s that, I hear my readers who didn’t pay attention in biology asking?
Gregor Mendel was a monk. He’s also more or less the father of modern genetics. Wait, what?
It had long been understood that you could breed two things with desirable traits and produce an offspring with that desirable trait. But until Mendel, no one had really troubled themselves too much with the WHY? part of the equation. Mendel, however, wanted to know what was going on.
So he experimented. With pea plants. He noticed that some of his plants were yellow, some were green. Some had wrinkled pods, some had smooth. Some were tall, some were short. So he started breeding plants. And breeding plants. And breeding more plants.
And he discovered that if you bred two plants with opposing characteristics (yellow/green) for example, all their “children” would be of ONE variety. But THEIR children would show the other characteristic about 1 out of every 4 times. Eventually, he solidified this into the concept of dominant and recessive genes. You can chart these pairings, and predict their offspring, using what looks like a tic-tac-toe board (Punnet Squares, if I recall my lessons correctly).
I like Mendel’s story for two reasons. One, everybody knew this was a thing, but Mendel actually looked below the surface and searched for the WHY. He was curious. I love curiosity.
Also, it’s not often we owe major scientific breakthroughs to monks.
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