Mendel was born on July 20, 1822, in a German-speaking family of Heinzendorf in Silesia, part of the Austrian Empire (now Hynčice in the Czech Republic) and was baptized 2 days later. During his childhood Mendel worked as a gardener, and as a young man attended the Philosophical Institute in Olomouc. In 1843 he entered the Augustinian Abbey of St. Thomas in Brno. Born Johann Mendel, he took the name Gregor upon entering monastic life. In 1847 he was ordained as a priest. In 1851 he was sent to the University of Vienna to study, returning to his abbey in 1853 as a teacher, principally of physics.
Gregor Mendel was inspired by both his professors at university and his colleagues at the monastery to study variation in plants. He commenced his study in his monastery's experimental garden. Between 1856 and 1863 Mendel cultivated and tested some 28,000 pea plants. His experiments brought forth two generalizations which later became known as Mendel's Laws of Inheritance.
Mendel's attraction to research was based on his love of nature. He was not only interested in plants, but also in meteorology and theories of evolution. Mendel often wondered how plants obtained atypical characteristics. On one of his frequent walks around the monastery, he found an atypical variety of an ornamental plant. He took it and planted it next to the typical variety. He grew their progeny side by side to see if there would be any approximation of the traits passed on to the next generation. This experiment was "designed to support or to illustrate Lamarck's views concerning the influence of environment upon plants." He found that the plants' respective offspring retained the essential traits of the parents, and therefore were not influenced by the environment. This simple test gave birth to the idea of heredity.
Mendel read his paper, "Experiments on Plant Hybridization", at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brünn in Moravia in 1865. When Mendel's paper was...