Modernizing Mendelism - A
centennial celebration. Informal Publication of the Department 2000,
somewhat aided by the Department of Zoology / Genetics, Iowa State
A ring-bound typeface of 106
pages written by professors Willard F. Hollander (1913-2004) and
Wilmer J. Miller (1925-2011) with a lot of thoughtfulness and
profound humor. A 100th anniversary publication of Mendel's
discoveries? As stated in the introduction, this was 35 years before
1900. Honored is therefore rather the dissemination of the idea and
thus probably in this context William Bateson, who helped to
disseminate Mendel's findings. He was also not the first to
rediscover Mendel's rules. But he was the first to get Mendel
attention in English and coined the term genetics in 1906.
Fig. 1: W.F. Hollander and
W.J. Miller, Modernizing Mendelism, Ames 2000.
Pigeons are not the main
subject of the Scripture, but they keep appearing in examples. The
focus is on what has been found, added and integrated into Mendelism
after rediscovering his approach. So sex-linked inheritance,
multiple forms of genes at one gene location on a chromosome
(alleles), genetic linkages of genes on a chromosome, covering or
epistatic effects of factors (instead of recessiveness and
dominance), similarities of phenotypes with different genotypes
(mimics), quantitative instead of qualitative characteristics,
behavioral and others . The importance of a reference standard for
genetic studies is viewed from different perspectives. How can you
describe appearances? What is the 'wild type' for genetic testing?
Fig. 2: What is 'normal' or what is the 'wild type': “All that a
geneticist knows about normal development he learns by seeing what
goes wrong when the usual gene is replaced by a mutant allele”
Impressive how simple
drawings and examples give an impression of how chaotic pigeon
coloring must have seemed to genetically interested people around
1900 and afterwards. Pure strains for coloring had been created by
pigeon lovers without genetic knowledge by selection. At crosses
they gave results that without further insight contradict each other
and did not appear to have anything in common with the simple
Mendelian experiments. Blue and black gave black, black and red gave
black, and even red and white occasionally gave black.
Fig. 3: blue x black = black; Black x red = black and red x white =
black (left); Blue-lace Blondinette x lavender Lahore = black;
Yellow Tumbler x lavender Lahore = Black; Yellow Tumbler x white Owl
= black (right)
The pairing of the young
from the first generation in the second brought even more confusion
than education. Red appeared several times in many gradations.
It is a great achievement to
have these variations in one system. Today, differences in
appearance can be understood from the interaction of different
genes. A great achievement by the international scientific community
to which Hollander and Miller have made a significant contribution.
If the opinion is occasionally expressed today that we know little
about pigeon genetics, it is correct that we would like to know
more. However, in view of the increase in knowledge since Mendel
shown by Hollander and Miller in this writing, it is also
disrespectful with regard to the size of the task and the
performance achieved by the scientists involved in the process.
Fig. 4: Didactics of genetics: Over a century, the subject was
expanded and specialized, so that specialists in one specialty
finally understand little about the field of others. “Perhaps an
approach to such nirvana is myriads of amateurs, breeders and
fanciers? We dream on" (W.J. Miller 1989).