Key Scientists and their Contributions:
The scientist that is said to be the father of genetics, leading therefore to genetic engineering, is Gregor Mendel. Born as Johann Mendel on either the 20th or 22 nd of July, 1822. The exact date is not known. Heizendorf, known as Hynice of the Czechoslovakian Republic today, was his early home, a village near the border of Moravia and Silesia.
From 1851 to 1853, Mendel pursued the study of sciences such as zoology, botany, chemistry, and physics at the University of Vienna. He was following his childhood dream of becoming a teacher. At the time, teachers were also commonly priests, so at the age of 21, he joined the St. Thomas Brunn monastery in what is now Bruno, Czechoslovakia.
He began his famous hybrid cultivation of pea plants in the year 1856. Although his trials touched upon a detailed and precise science, his experiments were based on the scarce knowledge at the time, and predictions he made for himself. He was a monk at the time, and carried out his experimental work in the monastery garden. At first the cultivation resulted in unpredictable results, but after careful work, Mendel noticed certain similarities in breeding the plants, such as patterns in generations of plants, involving dependent factors such as stem length, stalk height, round or wrinkled seeds, etc. After spending eight years working, Mendel decided it was time to share his findings. In February 1865, he presented his findings to the Natural History Society of Brünn, calling them the "Experiments in Plant Hybridization.” No one seemed interested in Mendel's findings. He tried again, sending his work to a professor Karl von Nageli at the University of Munich, but success did not come. Despite his accomplishments, his labor would not be appreciated and recognized until thirty-four years later.
His work was rediscovered in 1900 by Carl Correns in Germany, Hugo de Vries in the Netherlands and Erich von Tschermak-Seysenegg in Austria. It was seen that Mendel did not merely study the hybridization, but also worked with the heredity of characteristics as passed through generations. Correns, Vries, and Tschermak-Seysenegg found similarities in Mendel’s records and their own discoveries, and so it became that Mendel’s laws of heredity were known as Mendelian Laws.
It was unfortunate that no fame came to Mendel while he was alive, but in 1868, Mendel was elected Abbot and Prelate of St. Thomas Monastery. This position did not give him time to continue with experimenting. This new obligation was not unwanted, and so he lived comfortably for the remainder of his life. Gregor Mendel died on January 6, 1884, but his contributions live on.
Ian Wilmut was born on July 7 th, 1944, and has made an everlasting impact on the scientific community, and the world. Now, married with three children, Wilmut’s childhood aspirations were much different from his life now. In his youth, Wilmut dreamt of becoming a farmer, but after one summer, his dream changed. After working in a laboratory, witnessing early experimentations in the cloning field he would eventually find himself in, Wilmut knew there was nothing else he wished to do. He soon found himself at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland, where be began experimentation with cloning. He wanted to eventually be able to enhance farm animals, to contain therapeutic elements in their milk.
Wilmut, like the nursery rhyme, indeed had a little lamb. His little lamb was named Dolly. Dolly was a clone, a carbon copy of her mother. Wilmut’s experimentation, that eventually led to Dolly started in 1995, when he and other scientists were trying to discover a way to genetically modify farm animals. They discovered a way, and were able to clone Meg and Morag, a set of sheep that grew up embryonic cells. However, this was not of interest to the public. A year later, on July 5, 1996, Dolly was born. Why was she special, when Meg and Morag were not? It was because instead of growing from an embryonic cell, she started as a cell taken from another sheep’s mammary gland. Her birth was only announced a year later, when she became famous.
Often called the first real clone, this statement is in reality, false. The process that created Dolly was not new, and truthfully, Dolly was not the first clone, but she was the most well known. This success however, brought upon a wave of debate of the morals involved in cloning. Many disagreed with the single parent system, and believed it to be an unethical area of science. Especially, since Dolly’s living success would one day lead to the cloning of a human being. Wilmut himself, when thinking of his own sons, stated that cloning humans takes away a person’s uniqueness and individuality. And that to genetically change a human being for the better through cloning leaves said person genetically altered, his weak areas revealed and manipulated.
Nathans was born in 1928 in Wilmington, Delaware. He was the youngest of a large family of nine children. His early childhood took place during the early depression, with his father jobless. But despite his unfortunate luck as a faultless youth, Nathans still managed to remember the time with a smile due to his optimistic parents and loving family. Nathans attended public school, but had to work from a low age to earn money. He later studied at the University of Delaware, specializing in chemistry, philosophy, and literature. He did not show any special interest in the field of science, but instead applied to become a doctor at Washington University. The person who most impacted Nathans’ life might be said to be Oliver Lowry, one of his professors, who convinced Nathans that instead of becoming a doctor, he should work in science research. After continuing down this path, he soon met his wife and had a son. As time progressed, Nathans changed his location many times, but also had two more children. Although happy at the time, he yet had no idea of the great contribution to science he would later make.
Soon, despite his widespread interest and work, he focused on microbiology, becoming director of the Department of Microbiology at John Hopkins University. Nathans is most famous for his work with his colleague Hamilton Smith on restriction enzymes. He won the 1978 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. Restriction enzymes are enzymes that have the ability to cut DNA genes in to different pieces. The site of the cut is known as the cleavage. But by himself, Nathans also accomplished a great deal. He ventured off on his own, researching, and discovered that there were eleven pieces in which the genes could be cut in to, and later he found the order of these pieces.
Daniel Nathans definitely shows that through hard work and study, even without an original and early interest, if one is determined, he or she can accomplish anything. And as Nathans himself says, he believes that a very important part of success is to have people who believe in you, and to support you. Nathans was an important part of the scientific world, he was a great researcher, a great scientist, but also, he was a great father, husband, and person.
Eisenhaber, Frank., and Alexander Schleiffer. "Gregor Mendel: the Beginning of Biomathematics." IMP Bioinformatics Group. 8 Aug. 2004 <http://mendel.imp.univie.ac.at/mendeljsp/biography/biography.jsp>. A wide assortment of information on Gregor Mendel is available.
- D, Marcus. Gregor Mendel. 8 Aug. 2004 <http://www.edu365.com/aulanet/comsoc/Lab_bio/biolegs/Mendel.htm>. A very organized and informative page on the finer details of Mendel’s life.
- Sahlman, Rachel. "Gregor Mendel." Spectrum, Home and School Network. Amazon. 8 Aug. 2004 <http://www.incwell.com/Biographies/Mendel,Gregor.html>. A wide assortment of information on Gregor Mendel is available.
- "Ian Wilmut." ScheringStiftung. 8 Aug. 2004 <http://www.scheringstiftung.de/p2002cv.html>. An excellent page for information and statistics on Wilmut.
- Nash, J Madeleine. "Man of the Year." Time. Time. 10 Aug. 2004 <http://www.time.com/time/special/moy/grove/runnerwilmut.html>. Very thorough, yet not very specific article on the scientist and his life achievements.
- "Dolly the Sheep." Science Museum. 10 Aug. 2004 <http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/antenna/dolly/index.asp>. A page specifically devoted to Dolly, Wilmut’s cloned sheep. Although scarce on information on the scientist himself, it is an excellent source for information on his achievement.
- Nathans, Daniel. "Daniel Nathans - Autobiography." Nobel e Museum. 18 Aug. 2004 <http://www.nobel.se/medicine/laureates/1978/nathans-autobio.html>. An amazing autiobiographical website with plenty of information on the scientist’s early life and later discoveries.