Gregor Mendel, Father of Genetics and original hacker

At Mendeley, we took the inspiration for our name from Gregor Mendel, so it’s only proper that we would take a moment to recognize him on this day, the 189th anniversary of his birth. There’s also been a lot of attention given to the use and misuse of the word hacker in the news recently, so we also wanted to take a step back and recognize that creative spark and that terminal curiosity that drives people like Mendel to study obscure phenomena until they get to the hidden universal truths found within.

Mendel’s life took a trajectory that might be vaguely familiar to some of you. Born a farmer, he studied philosophy under the direction of Johann Karl Nestler, well-known for his studies of animal inheritance. Later Mendel went to a monastery at the recommendation of a professor, where the abbot recognized his potential and sent him to Vienna to get a fancy education. Poor Mendel just wasn’t cut out for that life and returned to the monastery having not completed the formal training program, but the lack of a fancy title and lots of grant funding didn’t stop Mendel. He just kept on working with his pea plants which, thanks to his insight and years-long obsession, led to the publication of a paper which laid the foundations for modern genetics. Being the work of a monk on breeding peas, his work was mostly unread and unappreciated during his life. It wasn’t until about 40 years later that his work was rediscovered and found to be the fundamental piece that had been missing in existing theories of inheritance. Mendel’s original paper is available to read in full text, so take a look, join a Mendeley group to discuss his work, and don’t ever let anyone tell you that your work is trivial and unimportant. It’s that spirit, the constant onward press for knowledge, that unites Gregor Mendel with Barbara McClintock and Linus Torvalds and the thousands of passionate knowledge-seekers around the world who are proud to wear the term hacker.