Here’s how it works. We produce fascinating shows on highly relevant topics, and you come and listen. You, the researcher at the university lab, you, the researcher in the small biotech start-up or in the large pharma lab, you, the management for the growing diagnostics company or you, the doctor wishing to know what is new in genetic research. Log on and play the podcast at any time, anywhere in the world. Hear from someone in the show that you’d like to contact? Go to Guests and there you’ll find them listed with contact information. Follow my blog here.
First of all, I’d like to acknowledge Mitch Joel whose book gave me the idea for this site, “Six Pixels of Separation.” A friend of mine and now our executive producer, Ayanna Monteverdi, had recommended the book some time back. It went to my reading list. One day as I was searching for answers the book stared out at me from my list and I went immediately to Amazon. Joel is an expert for online social marketing and has done over 500 podcasts himself. I wasn’t but ten pages into the book when the idea for mendelspod.com came along with our mission: advancing life science research by connecting people and ideas. Within a month we were writing the business plan. “Why did you pick up the book just now,” Ayanna asked. Who knows.
Gregor Mendel showed up as an intriguing figure as soon as we began working on this business. I had been reading a book by James Watson on the history of DNA science and heard again the story of this Austrian monk who was trained as a physicist. Monk-physicist-father of human genetics--huh? The journey to scientific discovery is not always the predicted one. It is fueled by a passion to ‘find out why,‘ by a love of what one does. And by fortuitous connections. I have read also--to move to another discipline--of the ‘scientist’ who discovered Uranus, Frederick William Herschel. Herschel was a musician in Bath, England with a love of astronomy. He started building his own telescopes and discovered Uranus while viewing the night sky in his own garden. (Gardens must be fertile places for scientific discovery. ) Herschel named the new planet the “Georgian Star” after King George III, but the French would have none of it. The name from Greek Mythology was adopted to match the names of the other planets. Still, the king was impressed and ordered Herschel to move to Windsor and bring along his telescopes for royal viewing. Herschel went on to discover the two major moons of Uranus as well as two moons of Saturn and infrared radiation. Of the twenty-four symphonies Herschel wrote, which have you heard?
It has been often said that Mendel’s training as a physicist--learning to keep lots of accurate data--was key to his work with the pea plants. Unlike Herschel, Mendel’s discoveries were not immediately hailed as such. Though he published his ideas in 1866 in the leading journals of the day, they went largely unnoticed until 1900, long after his death. No royal patronage. In fact, one leading scientist urged Mendel to give up his studies of the pea plant. In 1868, Mendel was appointed head abbot of his monastery. Burdened with the daily duties of maintaining the order, Mendel gave up his pea experiments, strolling out to the garden later in life only for the occasional cigar.
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What if Mendel had a computer and could blog about his own work? Though they lived simultaneously, it turns out that two great scientists, Charles Darwin and Mendel knew nothing of each other. In 1859 Darwin published “Origin of the Species,” three years after Mendel began his pea experiments. Though Darwin had clearly laid out the evidence for natural selection--the adaptation of life based on the environment--his theory about the hereditary factor which he called “pangenesis” was wrong. Darwin held that hereditary particles in our bodies were affected by the things we do during our lifetimes. These modified particles, he thought passed through the blood to the reproductive cells and could therefore be inherited by the next generation. If Darwin had known of Mendel’s work, he would have had clear evidence that his theory of pangenesis was wrong.
At mendelspod.com we will bring you interviews with the Darwins and the Mendels of today. And shows with the leaders of industry. As you see from our first show on the World Conference of Personalized Medicine, scientific research is advanced when not only scientists, but also businessmen and regulators get together and trade ideas and visions for the future.
Come back again soon!