Inherited similarities can be startling, such as the physical likeness between john lennon and son Julian and in their distinctive singing voices.
Although growing up in a musical environment can shape a talent, heredity plays a role, too. Interest in heredity must be as old as humankind itself, as people throughout time have wondered at their similarities-and fought over their differences.
Farmers in mexico used genetics six thousand years ago when they carefully set aside seed from the hardiest plants of a wild grass each season and used it to start the next season’s crop. In this way, over many plant generations, domesticated corn was bred. Four thousand years earlier, other farmers domesticated wheat. The old testament reveals a remarkable comprehension of hereditary: a boy whose mother’s sister had a so who bled to death upon circumcision was exempt from the ritual. This was an ancient recognition of the transmission of hemophilia through a female carrier.
In the nineteenth century, the idea that different parts of the body control trait transmission became popular. Later, scientists gave genes a number of colorful names, including pagens, idioblasts, bioblasts, plastidules, nuclein, plasomes, strips, gemmules or just characters. But an investigator who used the term elementen made the most lasting impression on what would become, a quarter century after his death in 1884, the science of genetics. His name was gregor mendel.
As a child in what was once Czechoslovakia near the polish border, mendel learned farming from his family and tended fruit trees for the lord of a manor. Surviving extreme poverty, he was university-educated in science and teaching. At the age of twenty-one, mendel entered the Augustinian monastery at brno. There, he learned about plant breeding from the abbot, a man dedicated to scientific research, who built a greenhouse for plant breeding experiments. Mendel was active in local plant and animal breeding programs. His nine years of carefully setting up crosses of pea plants enabled him to generalize about the mechanism of heredity.
Although peas had been popular with plant breeders since the 1820s, mendel was the first to envision how ratios of offspring classes revealed transmission of distinct elementen, or characters, although he still did not know how such information might be passed on in a physical sense.