We may not have sky-cars yet or transporter beams, but, increasingly, 21st-century medicine is starting to sound like the product of some mid-20th-century science-fiction writer's fevered imagination. Though still in its infancy, gene therapies, which make adjustments in human DNA, promise to someday cure everything from Parkinson's disease and cancer to the infamously identified "bubble boy" syndrome. And we owe it all to a 19th-century friar named Gregor Mendel, whose microscope and few surviving notes are currently on display at the Pink Palace Museum as part of the touring exhibit "Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics."
It's something of a miracle that Mendel's work survived. His observations weren't particularly well-received by the scientific community, and after his death, the succeeding abbot of his order burned all of the proto-geneticist's papers. But a quarter-century after his unheralded passing, Mendel's work showing dominant and recessive traits in peas was rediscovered and became the foundation for the field of modern genetics.
Although he's most famous for his work with pea plants, Mendel also tried to prove the existence of similar patterns of inheritance in bees. He was only successful in creating a colony of hybrid bees so aggressive they had to be destroyed, but that's another story entirely.
The exhibit mixes biographical information about the studious clergyman with artwork to explore the birth of modern genetics and its implications for the future.
"Gregor Mendel: Planting the Seeds of Genetics" at the Pink Palace Museum,
February 2nd through April 27th