Patterns of inheritance

Our understanding of how traits and disorders are passed from one generation to the next began with the work carried out by an Augustinian monk, Gregor Mendel. Although Mendel's published work in 1866 was initially ignored, its rediscovery at the beginning of the twentieth century heralded the beginning of modern genetics. Mendel's experiments on pea plants and his observations of the patterns of inheritance of certain characteristics led to the development of his particulate theory of inheritance. It was only later in 1909 that the units of inheritance that he had described were named genes and alternative forms of a gene were termed alleles. It was also at this time that the terms phenotype, used to describe the observed characteristic, and genotype, used to refer to the genetic endowment, were introduced.

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