What kind of person was Gregor Johann Mendel?

Welcome to our series of articles Mendel, the Man. The Faculty of Science of Masaryk University wants to contribute to the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Gregor Johann Mendel, which we commemorate in 2022.

2 May 2022 Jiřina Relichová

“Man’s destiny is constant effort, breeding of strength and training of abilities”

G. J. Mendel, in a poem written during his high school studies, 1834–1840
Gregor Johann Mendel was a man of personality. He presents a series of seven podcasts by J. Relichová.

It is unique in the history of science that the whole branch can be attributed to a specific person, publication, place and date. However, this happened in the case of Gregor Johann Mendel, who. with his scientific work ‘Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden (Experiments with Plant Hybrids)’ laid the foundations of genetics in Brno in 1865. Because of this work, he is rightly called the father of genetics, and compared to such greats as Copernicus, Darwin, Einstein and others.

Nevertheless, relatively little is known about G. J. Mendel’s personality. At the time of his discovery of the laws of heredity, no one understood its meaning. It was not until 16 years after Mendel’s death that his work was “rediscovered” and a new science – genetics – began to be developed. During his lifetime, G. J. Mendel was only known in Brno and its surroundings, mainly as a member of the Augustinian Order in Old Brno, where he later became abbot, but also as a teacher and public official in various associations and organisations. He was also known to have a great interest in the natural sciences, being a member of several scientific societies and actively pursuing studies himself.

When it was discovered some time after 1900 that Mendel’s discoveries were epoch-making, interest began to grow not only in his work but also in his personality. However, as his personal belongings were not kept by the members of the priesthood, there was little information available, At the time, however, memories of G. J. Mendel were gathered from loved ones, family, confreres and friends, and these have proven very important for understanding what he was like as a human being.

Of greatest importance, however, have been the written documents left behind by Mendel, from which much can be read about the characteristics of their writer. These documents mainly comprise his biography, which he wrote at the age of 28 when he applied for the university examinations at the University of Vienna, his correspondence, and, of course, his treatise on his pea experiments and some other documents. Over the years, many researchers have accessed these valuable documents and their findings are being presented to this day. From their research on the life of G. J. Mendel (see the list of sources), it is possible to obtain some idea of his personality, qualities and attitudes. He is celebrated as a scientist genius, but he was also a person with a distinct personality, as you will learn in the following articles.


Translation: Kevin F. Roche
Editor: Zuzana Jayasundera

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