Portugal has released a set of two stamps to mark the 150th anniversary of the Discovery of the Laws of the Heredity.Mendelian laws of inheritance are statements about the way certain characteristics are transmitted from one generation to another in an organism. The laws were derived by the Austrian monk Gregor Mendel (1822–1884) based on experiments he conducted in the period from about 1857 to 1865. For his experiments, Mendel used ordinary pea plants. Among the traits that Mendel studied were the color of a plant’s flowers, their location on the plant, the shape and color of pea pods, the shape and color of seeds, and the length of plant stems.
Mendel’s approach was to transfer pollen (which contains male sex cells) from the stamen (the male reproductive organ) of one pea plant to the pistil (female reproductive organ) of a second pea plant. As a simple example of this kind of experiment, suppose that one takes pollen from a pea plant with red flowers and uses it to fertilize a pea plant with white flowers. What Mendel wanted to know is what color the flowers would be in the offspring of these two plants.
In the second series of experiments, Mendel studied the changes that occurred in the second generation. That is, suppose two offspring of the red/white mating (“cross”) are themselves mated. What color will the flowers be in this second generation of plants? As a result of these experiments, Mendel was able to state three generalizations about the way characteristics are transmitted from one generation to the next in pea plants.