Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

The magic and meaning of Mendel’s miracle


July 2022 will see the bicentenary of the birth of Gregor Mendel, often hailed as the ‘father of modern genetics’. To mark the occasion, I retrace Mendel’s origins, revisit his famous study ‘Experiments in plant hybridization’, and reflect on the revolutionary implications of his work and scientific legacy that continues to shape modern biomedicine to this day.

Your institute does not have access to this article

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Bentley, D. R. et al. Accurate whole human genome sequencing using reversible terminator chemistry. Nature 456, 53–59 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Smith, G. D. & Ebrahim, S. ‘Mendelian randomization’: can genetic epidemiology contribute to understanding environmental determinants of disease? Int. J. Epidemiol. 32, 1–22 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Liu, Y. et al. Expanded diversity of Asgard archaea and their relationships with eukaryotes. Nature 593, 553–557 (2021).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Jinek, M. et al. A programmable dual-RNA-guided DNA endonuclease in adaptive bacterial immunity. Science 337, 816–821 (2012).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Maxwell, J. C. A dynamical theory of the electromagnetic field. Philos. Soc. R. Soc. Lond. 155, 459–512 (1865).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Abbott, S. & Fairbanks, D. J. Experiments on plant hybrids by Gregor Mendel. Genetics 204, 407–422 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Mendel, G. Versuche ueber planzenhybriden Verh. Nat. Ver. Bruenn 4, 3–44 (1866).

    Google Scholar 

  8. Flemming, W. Beiträge zur Kenntnisse der Zelle und ihrer Lebenserscheinungen. Arch. Mikrosk. Anat. 16, 302–436 (1879).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Boveri, T. Ueber mehrpolige mitosen als mittel zur analyse des zellkerns. Verh. Phys. Med. Gesellsch. Wuerzburg 35, 67–90 (1902).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Beneden, E. V. Researches sur la maturation de l’oeuf et la fecondation. Arch. Biol. Paris 4, 265–638 (1883).

    Google Scholar 

  11. Sutton, W. S. The chromosomes in heredity. Biol. Bull. 4, 231–251 (1903).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Darwin, C. R. & Wallace, A. R. On the tendency of species to form varieties; and on the perpetuation of varieties and species by natural means of selection. Zool. J. Linn. Soc. 3, 45–62 (1858).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Kimura, M. The Neutral Theory of Molecular Evolution. (Cambridge University Press, 1983).

  14. Mawer, S. Gregor Mendel Planting the Seeds of Genetics (Abrams, 2006).

  15. Gliboff, S. Evolution, revolution, and reform in Vienna: Franz Unger’s ideas on descent and their post-1848 reception. J. Hist. Biol. 31, 179–209 (1998).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Darwin, C. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection (John Murray, 1859).

  17. Malthus, T. R. An Essay on the Principle of Population (J. Johnson, 1798).

  18. Popper, K. Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach (Clarendon, 1972).

  19. Charlesworth, B. & Charlesworth, D. Darwin and genetics. Genetics 183, 757–766 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Naegili, C. W. Mechanisch-Physiologische Theorie der Abstammunglehre (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 1884).

  21. Fairbanks, D. J. Mendel and Darwin: untangling a persistent enigma. Heredity 124, 263–273 (2020).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Darwin, C. R. The Variations of Animals and Plants Under Domestication (John Murray, 1868).

  23. Iltis, H. Gregor Mendel and his work. Sci. Monthly 56, 414–423 (1943).

    Google Scholar 

  24. Fisher, R. A. Has Mendel’s work been re-discovered? Ann. Sci. 1, 115–137 (1936).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Beadle, G. W. & Tatum, E. L. Genetic control of biochemical reactions in neurospora. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 27, 499–506 (1941).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Crick, F. H. in Symposia of Society for Experimental Biology (Cambridge University Press, 1958).

  27. Sturtevant, A. H. The linear arrangement of six sex-linked factors in Drosophila, as shown by their mode of association. J. Exp. Biol. 14, 43–59 (1913).

    Google Scholar 

  28. van Dijk, P. J. & Ellis, T. H. The full breadth of Mendel’s genetics. Genetics 204, 1327–1336 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Watson, J. D. & Crick, F. H. C. A structure for deoxyribonucleic acid. Nature 171, 737–738 (1953).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Jacob, F. The Statue Within (Basic Books, 1988).

Download references


The author thanks B. Charlesworth and M. Srinivasan for helpful comments on the manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kim Nasmyth.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nasmyth, K. The magic and meaning of Mendel’s miracle. Nat Rev Genet 23, 447–452 (2022).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing