The fate of man, according to G. J. Mendel

Do you know that G. J. Mendel also wrote poetry? In the poem you will read in the 3rd episode of the podcast Mendel, The Man, you will find his life's credo that it is man's destiny to strive for high goals and to use all his abilities to achieve them. Enjoy the science by listening!

6 Jun 2022 Jiřina Relichová Kateřina Radová Zuzana Jayasundera Leoš Verner

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From various documents, we can conclude that G. J. Mendel was of a closed nature, internally thoughtful, purposeful and probably ambitious. In the seclusion of the monastery, he only met with his relatives and a small circle of friends, and did not keep up an extensive correspondence. In his letters home, he never talked about himself or what he was doing. He never even expressed his inner feelings; in one of his letters to his parents in 1853, he succinctly remarked “I am constantly healthy and studying hard; and as for the rest, we shall see, I hope”.

Mendel’s inner restraint in emotional matters can also be seen in the fact that he did not mention in his biography that his sister Terezie had made it possible for him to study at the Faculty of Arts in Olomouc by sacrificing her work. Apparently, he considered it an intimate affair of the family.

As a student, Mendel was already thinking about the fate of man, which he expressed in the first stanzas of his poem written to celebrate book printing.

What is the purpose of man?
Why to just a fragment of dust
Did the mysterious noble Being
pass on life with his powerful breath?
Of course, the Supreme, who so wisely
turns the Earth, knows well
why the worm from dust was elevated to life,
he certainly did not create man unnecessarily;
for the abilities which the spirit has received,
suggest he was destined for a higher

Man’s destiny is constant effort,
breeding strength and exercising his skills.

And it is the last verse that describe what Gregor Mendel essentially followed all his life, that man’s destiny is to strive to achieve high goals and to exert all his abilities.

The fact that Mendel had been interested in nature since his youth is clear from many documents. Nature fascinated him and inspired him to delve deeper into her secrets. When he entered the monastery at the age of 21, his material existence assured, he stated in his biography his interest in the field of natural sciences grew the more he found the opportunity to become more acquainted with them. Although the nominee lacked any oral accompaniment in this study, and although the self-taught path in this case, as in perhaps any other discipline, is extremely difficult and leads slowly, he has since favoured the study of natural sciences so that he will not hesitate to fill the existing gaps with an individual study according to the advice of practically experienced men. In 1846, the latter also attended lectures focused on agriculture, fruit growing and viticulture at the School of Philosophy in Brno”.

Mendel was also interested in the practical issues of management. In his letters home, he often mentioned the weather, the overwintering of trees and winter cereals, the diseases of potatoes and how much they cost in the market, and he commented on how cereals and fruit trees manage to overwinter and provided practical advice.

It is interesting, however, that in none of his letters home did he mention that he was undertaking experiments on peas and other plants, though several letters were written at the time of his intensive research on the laws of heredity. For example, in a letter of 1857, he writes: I do not know anything new that I can tell you”. He either considered it such a highly scientific problem that it was best reserved for interested members of the natural society, or he did not want to tell anyone about his experiments until he was convinced of their outcome and significance. This second assumption is more probable as he only published the results of his experiments after ten hard years of careful work, crossing peas and drawing conclusions to confirm his hypotheses.

There are also some indirect facts that give evidence of Mendel’s great interest in nature and its scientific secrets. His abbey emblem, for example, contains a lily, and on the ceiling of the chapter hall, which he had decorated when abbot of the monastery, he had depicted his interests in agriculture, fruit tree grafting, beekeeping and meteorology.

Gregor Mendel firmly believed, or was almost certain, that if one makes every effort to achieve a certain goal, he will achieve that goal.

While still a young man, he wrote in a poem:

After all, the laurels of the man, who,
with all seriousness,
eagerly educates himself in the spirit
that illuminates his mind, like lightning,
with the mysterious depths of science and art
on which he bases his abilities,
and from which an excellent invention germinates,
grows and finally, rich results,
bringing the necessary swarming of hosts -
- And yet, those laurels will not last forever.

He was very tenacious in his efforts to study the natural sciences. As he states in his biography although he himself had no oral instructions in this study, and the self-taught path here is, as perhaps in no other science, extremely difficult and leads slowly to the goal, he has since become fond of studying nature in such a way that he cannot be discouraged from study and, on the advice of experienced men, supplemented the existing shortcomings”.

Mendel’s tenacity and precision were fully reflected in his approach to solving the problem of heredity. He first became thoroughly acquainted with the new task, and only then did he decide whether, and how, to tackle it. He then set high goals.

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