Correspondence | Published:

Genetics teaching

Carry on celebrating Mendel's legacy

Nature volume 534, page 475 (23 June 2016) | Download Citation

I disagree with Gregory Radick's strategy for teaching modern genetics (Nature 533, 293; 2016). In my view, we should not discard the legacies of Gregor Mendel, William Bateson, Walter Sutton, Thomas Hunt Morgan and their ilk, whose beautiful science continues to provide the best explanations for inheritance.

I teach basic genetics to veterinary students, who learn the laws of inheritance without any historical context, and to biology students, who learn the scientific method and how it influenced the development of genetic concepts. The biologists revisit hypotheses proposed to account for the same observations — such as Bateson's and W. F. R. Weldon's contrasting views of inheritance. They come to understand that Mendel's hypothesis of hereditary units ('alleles') explains the data better. They learn that theories and hypotheses are not immutable, that science is incomplete, and that every discovery stimulates new questions.

With the Boveri–Sutton chromosome theory, it became clear that Mendelian inheritance is indeed the core of genetics. It underpins association-mapping studies, population genetics and clinical genetics. Such new information continues to corroborate Mendel's hypothesis of inheritance. There is no need to remove Mendel from his honorary position in the genetics curriculum to spark creative science.

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  1. Institute of Biosciences, University of São Paulo, Brazil.

    • Tatiana T. Torres

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Correspondence to Tatiana T. Torres.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/534475d

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