Heredity Before Mendel : Festetics and the Question of Sheep's Wool in Central Europe book cover
1st Edition

Heredity Before Mendel
Festetics and the Question of Sheep's Wool in Central Europe

ISBN 9781032015088
Published June 16, 2022 by CRC Press
274 Pages 12 Color & 18 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The history of Science is replete with untold stories and this book is one of these accounts. The author shares a narrative of heredity, an active topic of inquiry long before Gregor Mendel – the father of genetics – planted his peas. One such interlude unfolded in Mendel’s home city and involved the sheep breeder, Imre Festetics. He sought to improve wool and proposed important rules of heredity. Unfortunately, aspects of wool quality, now known to be polygenic, complicate interpretations of the work of Festetics and explain why it is neglected. The forebearers of Mendel never get the credit they deserve. Heredity Before Mendel resurrects Festetics, the grandfather of heredity.

Key Features

1) Documents a vibrant community of scholars interested in heredity before Mendel

2) Highlights the work of Imre Festetics, the forgotten grandfather of genetics

3) Desribes political repression which stifled the nascent foundation of heredity research

4) Emphasizes the role sheep and wool played as the first model system of genetics

5) Challenges19th century taboos in Moravia leading to malicious rumors about the inbred royal House of Austria (Habsburgs).

Table of Contents


Author Biography



1. The Enigma of Heredity

2. Sheep and Heredity

3. From Sheep to Peas

4. The Legacy of Imre Festetics



Appendix 1: The Opinion of J. M. Ehrenfels About Inbreeding

Appendix 2: Explanations of Emmerich Festetics About Inbreeding

Appendix 3: Explanations of Christian Carl and Rudolph Andre

Appendix 4: Festetics’s Letter to Hugo Salm

Appendix 5: J. K. Nestler’s Lecture About Procreation and Heredity

Appendix 6: F. Diebl’s Lecture About the Formation of Wheat Varieties

Appendix 7: Hempel’s Paper About Artificial Fertilization




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Péter Poczai is Curator at the Finnish Museum of Natural History, University of Helsinki, Finland. He received his PhD from the University of Pannonia, Keszthely, Hungary. He is the author or co-author of dozens of scientific peer reviewed journal articles.