Gregor Mendel the Augustinian Abbot

We know Gregor Mendel as the Austrian scientist who cross-bred pea plants to determine the law of how genetic traits of the parents, such as  tall and short, are passed on to their offsprings.  But he is not only the Father of Heredity.  As a parish priest ordained in 1847, he was also the father of his parish.  And as an Augustinian monk elected abbot by his fellow monks at the age of 47, he was also the father of his monastery[1]:

The new abbot was a very popular man. He received a good living and used much of it to entertain friends. Festival days were marked by open house to which the entire village was invited. Christmas was celebrated in a memorable manner; food and drink were enjoyed by all. Mendel was known to be charitable although he avoided publicizing his gifts to troubled villagers.

In spite of his gentleness he ended his life in dispute with the government. The legislature had passed a bill in 1874 that called for the taxation of church property in order to increase the salaries of the parish priests.

Mendel agreed that the state needed the money for this purpose and offered to send a voluntary contribution. He regarded the law as repressive, however, and stubbornly refused to concede that the state had any right to tax the church. The government would not accept the voluntary contribution but reasserted its demands. The struggle went on without result until his death, but it embittered Mendel, causing him to turn on anyone who tried to reason that the laws must be obeyed.[2]


[1] Philip Cane, Giants of Science (Pyramid, New York, 1959), pp. 194-200. See p. 196-197.

[2] Ibid., p. 197.


About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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