The greenhouse of Gregor Mendel, father of genetics, reconstructed

Gregor Mendel's greenhouse, in the Abbey of Saint Thomas in Brno (Thequia), in November 2022.

The Czech Republic celebrated, in 2022, the bicentenary of the birth of one of the greatest scientists of the XIXe century: Gregor Mendel (1822-1884). Unjustly misunderstood, this monk of the Augustinian abbey of Saint-Thomas de Brno, in Moravia, set up the foundations of genetics, of which he is the most important precursor, and revolutionized the understanding that we had of heredity. . He lived there for forty-two years and carried out all his research there, mainly in a large greenhouse (30 by 6 meters), built in 1854 on the initiative of the abbot, to facilitate his research begun in a small experimental garden.

There, he crossed peas, and the hybrids obtained allowed him to discover the laws of heredity, which define how genes are transmitted from generation to generation. The German botanist Carl Correns baptized these laws with the name of the monk in 1900. Misunderstood in his time, this humble and lucid monk-researcher had anticipated the late recognition of his work as he confided in relatives, telling them: “My time will come. » His time came sixteen years after his death with the publication of scientific publications confirming his intuition.

Curiously, this knowledge lover devoted most of his time to another science: meteorology. He had set up a small station on the windowsill of his cell and he was the first to describe a tornado.

Gregor Mendel's greenhouse, in the Abbey of Saint Thomas in Brno (Czech Republic), in November 2022.

The greenhouse, which has marked the history of genetics, has not had the same longevity as Mendel’s laws. She disappeared. A new one was inaugurated on November 12, 2022. Its designer, Ondrej Chybik, was inspired by the original building, in particular the slope of its roof. It now serves as a multipurpose space.

On January 6, she hosted an important ceremony bringing together scientists and religious on the occasion of the anniversary of her death, thus closing this commemorative year – also marked by the restoration and expansion of the museum dedicated to her at the interior of the monastery. No detail has been overlooked. The book published on this occasion is printed on artisanal paper in the composition of which has been integrated… a mixture of peas. The first copy, numbered, was offered to Pope Francis.

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