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Patterns from Crossed Peas

Kathy Willis explores how Gregor Mendel's famous pea experiments helped to revolutionise horticulture. From 2014.

In 1900 three papers by three botanists, unknown to each other, appeared in the same scientific journal. Each had independently "rediscovered" the rules of inheritance that Gregor Mendel had found four decades earlier in his solitary investigations of pea plants.

Kathy Willis reassesses Mendel's famous pea experiments in the light of his attempts to uncover what happens over several generations when hybrid plants are created. As historian Jim Endersby explains, Mendel's initial results may have stunned him and shown what plant breeders might have suspected for decades, but science now had mathematical laws to create new varieties.

Historian Greg Radick sheds light on how Mendelism, in the years leading up to the First World War, became heavily promoted by Cambridge botanist William Bateson and was put into action by the first Professor of Agricultural Botany, Roland Biffen. His success in creating new wheat hybrids is explained by a unique international assembly of wheat ears from the early 1900s, curated by Mark Nesbitt, Head of Kew's economic botany collection.

Producer Adrian Washbourne.

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15 minutes

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