Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Ownership of Mendel's Pea Breeding Manuscript in Dispute

Gregor Mendel's 1865 paper, "Experiments in Plant Hybridization" is the foundational work of modern genetics. Although its significance was not widely appreciated until its rediscovery at the turn of the century by the trio of de Vries, Correns, and Tschermak, today every student of botany will have heard of this Augustinian monk from BrĂ¼nn (now Brno, Czech Republic) and his pea garden.

The original manuscript of his work was almost discarded in 1911, and then disappeared entirely after World War II, behind the Iron Curtain. It finally resurfaced in 1988 and was placed in the care of an Augustinian monk in Germany who was also a descendant of the Mendel family. He intended to have it placed in the family's possession; the descendants applied to have it declared a German cultural treasure, but the Augustinian order now disputes the ownership of the manuscript, saying that it should belong to the order. Nicholas Wade reports on the feud in the New York Times.

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