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  The Laws of Heredity 1866

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42  The Laws of Heredity 1866  
GREGOR MENDEL, an Austrian monk who spent a decade crossbreeding pea plants in his monastery garden, aired his discovery of the basic laws of heredity in 1866. He gave up his research two years later when he became abbot, and his work, though published, was largely ignored. Rediscovered in 1900, it helped propel America's interest in agricultural reform. 
Mendel's thesis--that traits handed down from parent plants to offspring were mathematically predictable--led to the "hybrid vigor" theory, which transformed commercial agriculture. By crossing two inbred seeds, farmers could produce progeny that outperformed either parent, resulting in healthier and fuller crops. Corn, now bred entirely this way, has been called the greatest success story of modern genetics. In the 1960s, agronomist Norman Borlaug saved millions of lives in famine-stricken India and Pakistan by introducing a shortened, high-yielding dwarf wheat--a green revolution that had its roots in Mendel's garden. 

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