Who is the father of modern genetics

History of genetics

First milestones

Around 500 BC, for example, the Greek philosopher Anaxagoras declared that the embryo was already preformed in the male sperm. And about 100 years later, Aristotle also assumed that only men have hereditary factors.

Such and similar ideas persisted long into modern times. There was simply a lack of suitable instruments to uncover the secrets of inheritance.

The Augustinian monk Gregor Johann Mendel, who formulated the so-called Mendelian rules in 1865, laid the foundation for modern heredity. They grasp the principles for the inheritance of physical traits.

Mendel experimented with peas, with seven different characteristics of purebred pea lines, and summarized the results of his crossbreeding experiments into three basic rules. In principle, these are still valid today. For a start, however, they were forgotten.

In 1869, nucleic acids, the building blocks of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), were discovered in fish sperm for the first time - but without establishing any connection to the structure of the genetic material. In 1888 Wilhelm von Waldeyer discovered the chromosomes in human cells.

Carl Correns, Erich von Tschermak and Hogo de Vries again pointed out the importance of Mendel's laws in 1900. In 1904, the German biologist Theodor Boveri proved that the chromosomes are the carriers of genetic information. In 1906 William Bateson introduced the term "genetics" for the laws of inheritance.

Hereditary diseases

Another great milestone in the history of genetics was laid by Archibald Garrod in 1909. During his work as a doctor, he noticed that there are diseases with a family history, such as color blindness. At that time, for example, this feature could be found in both father and son.

Garrod also noticed that the grandparents' metabolic disorders reappear in the grandchildren's generation. Garrod also found that it is not the disease itself that is inherited, only the inherent predisposition.

He made this discovery in relation to susceptibility to infectious diseases. Ultimately, Mendel's rules were reflected in his observations and conclusions.

As early as 1903, the US biologist Walter S. Sutton put forward the theory that chromosomes occurring in pairs are carriers of the genetic material. This approach was pursued and expanded from 1907 by Thomas Morgan on Drosophila melanogaster (a species of fruit flies).

Over the course of many years, Morgan actually succeeded in locating genes that carry the sex-linked hereditary factors at certain points on the fruit fly chromosomes. Thomas Morgan received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his research in 1933 and has since been considered one of the fathers of genetic research.

The double helix

Finally, in 1953, it was Francis Crick and James Watson who discovered the double helix structure of DNA. They discovered that the DNA molecule is a three-dimensional, spiral-shaped double strand, in the interior of which the four bases always join together in twos.

The structure of our genetic material can be imagined like a spiral staircase. The bases form the steps, sugar and phosphate form the banister.

According to the two researchers, the special thing about this structure is that it can copy itself. With that, Watson and Crick had also explained the mechanism of inheritance. For this they received the Nobel Prize.

The search for genes

In 1969, the US biochemist Jonathan Roger Beckwith was the first to isolate a single gene from the genome of coli bacteria (Escherichia coli). In 1982, the first genetically engineered drug, human insulin, came onto the US market. It is made by bacterial cells that contain the human insulin gene.

The "genetic fingerprint" was developed in 1984 by Alec Jeffreys. The first genetically modified animals soon followed, so in 1987 the "Harvard cancer mouse" was the first animal to be patented.

In 1990 the "Human Genome Project" (HUGO) started. The ambitious goal: research teams around the world wanted to have deciphered the entire human genome by 2003. In 1995, the genome of the Haemophilus influenzae bacterium was the first microorganism to be completely deciphered. The first genetically decoded animal was a roundworm in 1998.

The fruit fly followed in 2000, the mouse genome in 2002. In 2003 the "Human Genome Project" was also completed: The human genome was deciphered.