Charles Robert Darwin (1809 – 1882)
Charles Darwin, English naturalist and writer, best known as the originator of the theory of biological evolution by natural selection. Darwin set out on a voyage when he was 22 years old. The five-year voyage took him to South America and the islands off its coast. The studies that he conducted during this voyage were to change forever the way we look at the variety of life on earth. Interestingly, after he got back to England, he never left its shores again. He stayed at home and conducted various experiments that led him to formulate his hypothesis that evolution took place due to natural selection. He did not know the mechanism whereby variations arose in the species. He would have been enlightened by Mendel’s experiments, but these two gentlemen did not know of each other or their work! We often associate Darwin solely with the theory of evolution. But he was an accomplished naturalist, and one of the studies he conducted was to do with the role of earthworms in soil fertility.
Gregor Johann Mendel (1822 – 1884)
Gregor Mandel was an Austrian scientist, who is known as the “Father of Modern Genetics”. Mendel was educated in a monastery and went on to study science and mathematics at the University of Vienna. Failure in the examinations for a teaching certificate did not suppress his zeal for scientific quest. He went back to his monastery and started growing peas. Many others had studied the inheritance of traits in peas and other organisms earlier, but Mendel blended his knowledge of science and mathematics and was the first one to keep count of individuals exhibiting a particular trait in each generation.
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