DID MENDEL CHEAT?
AbstractWho does not know Gregor Mendel? Mendel isconsidered to be the father of genetics. The oftenstated irony is that Mendel’s work, at the time ofpresentation of his famous paper titled ‘Experimentsin plant hybridization’, was not taken seriously. Itwould be later, the year 1900, that a few botanistswould ‘rediscover’ Mendel’s work and the field ofgenetics would find its place at the center of humancuriosity. What Mendel might not have envisaged isthat his scientific inferences would be questioned onscientific, and even moral grounds.The main arguments indicting Mendel andhis work, started to brew when world renownedmathematician and statistician, R. A. Fisher,discovered peculiarities in Mendel’s data. Fisher,who in the words of Anders Hald1 “was a genius whoalmost single-handedly created the foundations formodern statistical science”, while lecturing atCambridge in 1911 quipped: It is interesting thatMendel’s original results all fall within the limits ofprobable error; if his experiments were repeated theodds against getting such good results is about 16 toone. It may have been just luck; or it may be that theworthy German abbot, in his ignorance of probableerror, unconsciously placed doubtful plants on theside which favored his hypothesis.
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