In this chapter, we've tried to lay the groundwork for one of the most important topics in modern biology - the science of Genetics. The study of inheritance began with Gregor Mendel in the 19th century as an attempt to understand how traits are passed along from parent to offspring. In today's scientific environment, Genetics has become one of the keys to understanding life itself.

Why Mendel Matters

No question about it - Father Mendel was ahead of his time. After studying natural philosophy (a subject that today we would call Biology) at the University of Vienna, Mendel returned to his monastery and for several years taught science at the local high school in Brno, a town that today is part of the Czech republic. For decades after he published a paper on his work in an obscure journal, few scientists thought of applying his principles to other organisms. Right around the turn of the century, however, his work was rediscovered and biologists quickly realized that his concept of the "gene" could be used to explain inheritance in everything from snapdragons to fruit flies. Gregor Mendel was the very model of the scientific "amateur" who is able to see through a complex problem and find simple, elegant solutions to basic problems. His work is justly celebrated today!