Journal of Genetics

, 98:63 | Cite as

The emergence of genetics from Festetics’ sheep through Mendel’s peas to Bateson’s chickens

  • Attila T. Szabó
  • Péter PoczaiEmail author

It is now common knowledge—but also a misbelief—that in 1905 William Bateson coined the term ‘genetics’ for the first time in his letter to Adam Sedgwick. This important term was already formulated 81 years ago in a paper written by a sheep-breeding noble called Imre (Emmerich) Festetics, who still remains somewhat mysterious even today. The articles written by Festetics summarized the results of a series of lasting and elegant breeding experiments he had conducted on his own property. Selecting the best rams, Festetics had painstakingly crossed and backcrossed his sheep to reach better wool quality. These experiments later turned out to reveal a better understanding of inheritance outlining genetics as a new branch of natural sciences.

The question often emerges as to why genetics started so late, relative to other sciences.

In its evolution towards genetics as a well-established scientific field in its own right, the history of ‘heredity’ has many plots and characters. This history...


Brno enlightenment heredity genetic laws inbreeding Mendel Moravia 



We thank Lisa Hirte Muszynski for critical reading of the manuscript and valuable comments on an earlier version. Péter Poczai acknowledges the support of iASK, OECD CRP Grant, the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS) Grant, and the LUOMUS Trigger Fund.


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BioDatLabBalatonfüredHungary
  2. 2.Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  3. 3.Department of Molecular Plant PhysiologyInstitute for Water and Wetland Research, Radboud UniversityNijmegenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Institute of Advanced Studies Kőszeg (iASK)KőszegHungary

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