The major purpose of this book is to present Johann Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) in a real and interesting way based on the most recent historical research and analysis of authentic sources. The authors aim to show Mendel´s scientific thinking and inner feelings together with his environment and to communicate his message as a multifaceted personality and modern experimentalist.
The book draws from the only existing short sketch of Mendel´s youth, his letters and the biographical ceiling paintings that were made according to his proposal. They form the basis of the self-portrait concept.
The structure of the book follows thematic groups covering Mendel´s activities from a poor village boy in search for education and financial security, as not being physically suitable for running his father's farm. The book does not perpetuate the myths invented by some creative authors to make Mendel´s biography more attractive. Mendel´s life and work are dramatic enough without those embellishments. Mendel found happiness in science and he was able to explain the theory of new scientific facts. He was not a tragic figure, he did not work to become famous, but to be useful. His pea research has now been appreciated as a genius accomplishment of a scientist.
The book is published at the occasion of Mendel´s birthday bicentennial.
Anna Matalová is Emeritus Head of the Mendelianum of the Moravian Museum that continues the historical research started by the Franz (now Moravian) Museum founded by the learned Agricultural Society in 1817. She was the first (and the last) assistant to Jaroslav Kríženecký after his release from the communist prison. Since then, she has devoted her life to research into Mendelian history and its presentation. She was editor of the academic journal Folia Mendeliana. After the Velvet Revolution, and until her retirement, she was the Head of the Mendelianum in Brno and Chairperson of the Czech Committee for the History of Science and Technology in Prague. Shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, Anna began organizing the international Mendel Forum conferences to facilitate intensive and open communication among researchers and experts from the West and the East. Thanks to her endeavour, the Mendelianum has now been located in the authentic rooms of Mendel´s Agricultural Society in the historical heart of Brno. She also has highlighted other places connected with Mendel´s life and authored Mendel´s Path in Brno. She was instrumental in the establishment of the Fund for Mendel´s native house (farmstead of Mendel´s parents) in Hyncice (now part of Vražné), allowing for its reconstruction as a place for cultural meetings. In her exhibitions and scientific publications, she has presented Mendel´s accomplishments in context with actual cultural, social and scientific topics. Her husband, son and daughter consider Mendel as a member of the family.
Eva Matalová is a leading Research Scientist at the Institute of Animal Physiology and Genetics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and a Professor at the University of Veterinary Sciences in Brno. She has “inherited” her interest in Mendel from her mother, Anna. Eva has been active in the Mendelianum since her PhD studies, organizing annual Mendel Forum conferences in the 21st century and other activities focused on students and youth (Junior Mendel Forums, Wednesdays with Mendel, DNA afternoons, Science in Action, etc.). Eva proposed the idea of the International Mendel Day on March 8, and established an International Mendel Network consisting of expert three scientists and historians. She was the initiator, facilitator and guarantor of the project Centrum Mendelianum, based on Anna´s concept of Mendel´s accomplishments as a naturalist.