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A History of Genetics

Throughout most of human history, the reason why an organism looks like its parents, while looking very different than a hound dog (unless its parents were hound dogs), was not known.

This changed in the 1860s, when an Austrian monk by the name of Gregor Mendel began experimenting with peas. Mr. Mendel wanted to find out how life forms pass physical characteristics, also known as traits, from one generation to the next.

The traits that Gregor Mendel focused his study on were the height of a pea plant, the color of pea seeds, and the shape of pea seeds. By cross pollinating the pea plants, he carefully controlled which plants reproduced, and tracked how each of these traits was passed on from generation to generation. Cross pollination means that Gregor Mendeltook pollination from a pea plant which he selected and put it on another pea plant he selected.