Modernizing Mendelism - A centennial celebration. Informal Publication of the Department 2000, somewhat aided by the Department of Zoology / Genetics, Iowa State University, Ames.

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).

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