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Brno, Czech Republic

Philip Meneely - 2003 Spring Trip

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick’s paper in Nature, my wife and I spent April 25, 2003 at the Mendel Museum in Brno. Brno is an industrial city about two hours by train from Vienna. The Museum is attempting to restore the abbey where Mendel lived. It is located in an urban square and identifiable by the distinctive green signs. The courtyard also includes a statue of Mendel. The conference room inside the door was the monks’ dining room, with Mendel’s garden immediately outside the windows on the left.

Urban square entrance

green signs

Philip Meneely visits the
courtyard statue of Mendel

Monks' dining room

Mendel's Garden
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The curator gave us a private tour of the exhibits and Mendel-inspired artwork. Among the exhibits were pictures of the monks, the microscope that Mendel used, a page illustrating the peas that he probably used, and a page of his notebook on meteorology. His genetics notebooks are lost but his meteorology notebook records an incredible amount of daily weather detail in a tiny script. I usually tell my students that “Mendel kept meticulous records” but if his genetics notebooks were like his weather notes, a better description might be that Mendel was obsessive about details. The exhibit also included the library copy of The Origin of Species with Mendel’s notes in the margins and his ill-fated correspondence with Carl Nageli.

A picture of the monks (Mendel
is standing, fourth from the right)

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Mendel's microscope

Illustration of peas

Meticulous records
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The garden was remarkably small, no more than 6’ x 15’, or smaller than many home vegetable gardens. The Museum hopes to obtain seeds from the varieties of peas that Mendel probably used and replant his garden in the near future. They host lectures and seminars on genetics, and plan to restore his greenhouse and beehives as funds are available. Information on making donations to the museum are on their web site