History and Nature of Genetics and Heredity

While Gregor Mendel’s contributions are certainly important for both their methodology and findings, they are not the only historically significant aspect of genetics and heredity. What were the cultural norms and views in times past? How did those views impact the advancement of science?

History of Genetics Timeline
This well-organized table starts with Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace in 1858, giving teachers a good foundation or review of how knowledge of genetics and heredity developed. However, it is interesting to ponder how people thought about reproduction and heredity prior to Darwin, since those concepts influenced the questions, if any, that were posed.

And Still We Evolve: Section Five: Heredity and Modern Genetics
This self-published handbook addresses ancient views (we cannot call them theories since they lacked supportive empirical evidence resulting from rigorous experimentation) of preformation, incapsulation, and epigenesis. Though your students may not admit it, they could have held, or may still hold similar views themselves.

A Mendel Seminar
A lesson for high school students in advanced biology revolves around Mendel’s original paper, Experiments in Hybridization (1865). The structure and support provided in annotations enable the learner to make sense of, and gain insight into, Mendel’s reasoning, methods and conclusions.

Thomas Hunt Morgan and Sex Linkage
This article summarizes Morgan’s work and includes tables and graphics for a clear presentation. It includes a section titled The Context of Morgan’s Discovery, from which the following quote is extracted, giving insight into his views:

Morgan, however, had long resisted the idea that genes resided on chromosomes, because he did not approve of scientific data acquired by passive observation. Furthermore, Morgan was not convinced that traits couldn’t morph into new forms in an organism based on the blending of parental contributions, an idea leftover from pre-Mendelian scientists. Morgan was sure that . . . researchers who promoted the chromosome theory of inheritance were looking for an easy answer as to how independent assortment occurred in gamete formation, because he believed they ignored counterevidence in the face of excited conviction. In fact, he thought that the concept of genes was at best an invention intended to link the mysterious paths of chromosomes :and discontinuous inheritance patterns.

This post excerpted from Middle School Guide to Reproduction and Heredity

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