Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Genetics, History of
Karen Ahrens & Kara Rogers & Olin Feuerbacher & Kathy Prue-Owens & Jennifer Currie & F. John Meaney
In its broadest sense, genetics is the science of biological variation. It focuses on variation that results from inheritance, the process by which characters are passed from parents to their offspring. This often places genetics in contrast to the environment, even though one is not sufficient without the other. For thousands of years, humans have been interested in how characters are inherited in plants, animals, and themselves. Much was learned over the centuries through observations and repetition of what seemed to work in agriculture and animal breeding. But it took an Austrian monk working in the middle of the 19th century to conceptualize what was happening when characters were passed on. The monk, of course, was Gregor Mendel, and we are now more than a century and a half into the discipline he fathered. The history of genetics has been colored by the best and the worst of times. The ...