MENDEL, Johann Gregor (1822-1884). "Versuche ber Pflanzen-Hybriden". In: Verhandlungen des naturforschenden Vereines in Brnn 4 (1865), "Abhandlungen" pp. -47. Brnn: Im Verlage des Vereines; aus Georg Gastls Buchdruckerei, 1866.
8o (239 x 154 mm). Original printed gray wrappers (light foxing, cracks and some chipping to spine, minor chipping at edges of lower cover); morocco-backed folding case. Provenance: 19th-century shelfmark label pasted to upper cover; Herbert McLean Evans (1882-1971), biologist, discoverer of Vitamin E and of the growth hormone of the pituitary gland, pioneer collector of science books (autograph card loosely inserted); Harrison D. Horblit (bookplate).
FIRST EDITION OF "ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT PAPERS IN THE HISTORY OF BIOLOGY, AND THE FOUNDATION OF GENETIC STUDIES" (DSB). The son of an Austrian peasant, monk and later abbot of the Augustinian monastery in Brnn (now Brno), Mendel was a devotee of plant breeding, and set out in the mid 1850s to explore the effects of cross-fertilization in plants. His paper "reports the results of ten years of experimental work on artificial plant hybridization, during which he followed a program designed to test his working hypothesis that hereditary matter is discrete and particulate. Mendel bred and cultivated nearly thirty thousand pea plants, performing careful statistical analyses of the distribution of seven pairs of mutually exclusive seed and plant characteristics--a manageable number that allowed him to observe all possible combinations of traits" (Grolier Medicine). The surprising result of Mendel's years of methodical research and systematic statistical analysis was his discovery of the "Mendelian ratios," a mathematical expression of the pattern of dominant and recessive hereditary traits, possibly "the most significant single achievement in the history of genetics" (Garrison-Morton). Related to this discovery was Mendel's recognition of the independence of each set of traits in a hybrid from all other differences in the two parental plants (later known as Mendel's law of independent assortment).
Not the least important aspect of Mendel's work was his methodology: "He reduced the hitherto extremely complex problem of crossing and heredity to an elementary level appropriate to exact analysis. He left nothing to chance... Altogether new was his use of large populations of experimental plants, which allowed him to express his experimental results in numbers and subject them to mathematical treatment. By the statistical analysis of large numbers Mendel succeeded in extracting 'laws' from seemingly random phenomena. This method, quite common today, was then entirely novel" (DSB).
Although Mendel's paper was distributed, in journal form, to 134 scientific institutions in various countries, and, in an offprint of 40 copies (of which about 10 are now known), to colleagues and correspondents at the author's disgression, it was not taken note of and fell into obscurity. "In 1900, within a two-month period, there appeared three preliminary reports by Hugo de Vries, Carl Correns, and Erich von Tschermak, who, working independently in Amsterdam, Tbingen, and Vienna respectively, attained the same results almost simultaneously. Each of them stated that just before completing his work, he learned that he had been preceded, by several decades, by a virtually unknown monk" (DSB). The rediscovery of Mendel's work, which William Bateson had translated into English in 1901 (see following lot), led to rapid progress in the development of the study of genetics.
A FINE ASSOCIATION COPY. Dibner Heralds of Science 35; Garrison-Morton 222; Grolier/Horblit 73a; Grolier Medicine 74; PMM 356a; Stafleu & Cowan TL2 5818; Norman 1489.