What We Inherit from Gregor Mendel

Gregor MendelOn this day in 356 BC, Alexander the Great was born. Or maybe it was tomorrow. It was a long time ago. Memories fade. I’ve never thought much of him and his pointless life. His was a very typical story: conquered a bunch of stuff, die, and it all falls apart. I don’t mean to say that had his accomplishments lasted it would have made his life more meaningful. But it surely is the case that the only real purpose of his conquests was power. In this regard, Genghis Khan comes off a lot better. The one thing that’s always interested me is that Aristotle was his tutor. In general, it tends to lower my opinion of the philosopher who regardless was never one to question existing power. I do hope he was paid well to teach the little bastard.

German impressionist Max Liebermann was born in 1847. He thankfully died before the Nazis got to kill him. The same cannot be said of mathematician Otto Blumenthal who was born in 1876. He managed to escape to the Netherlands. Unfortunately, that was not far enough away as the Nazis took over control of the country in May of 1940. Blumenthal was deported to Theresienstadt, where I assume he was simply murdered in 1944.

The great songwriter Cindy Walker was born in 1918. She wrote many songs you know and love, but especially this one:

And Natalie Wood was born in 1938. For the record, I tend to think she was not murdered. But I think we can all learn an important lesson from her death. It is a really bad idea to get drunk at sea. I’ll go further: it is a bad idea to go to sea at all. I’m not a huge fan of hers, but here she is pretty much holding her own with Rosalind Russell (who kills it) in Gypsy:

The oldest living cardinal, Ersilio Tonini is 99 today. Novelist Cormac McCarthy is 80. Diana Rigg was born on the same day as Nattalie Wood and is 75. Larry “Wide Stance” Craig has a birthday today, and other than hoping he spent it in an airport bathroom, I have nothing to say. Kim Carnes is 68. She is best known for her cover of “Bette Davis Eyes.” I like her performance, but I can’t listen to the song. That whole period of quasi-new wave production is almost unlistenable. But here is Jackie DeShannon’s version of the song (which she co-wrote):

Thomas Friedman is 60. I mention it only so I can present this very funny and accurate analysis of him:

“Big Brain Brett” actor Frank Whaley is 50. And “Say goodbye to these, Michael!” actor Judy Greer is 38.

The day, however, belongs to the father of genetics Gregor Mendel who was born on this day in 1822. There are two reasons that I really like him. First, his was about the only stuff I ever understood in biology class. Everything else was far too complicated with lots of memorizing. Typical of the way science is taught at the low levels, they remove almost everything interesting. But Mendel’s theory about inheritance with peas was simple and elegant. Second, he’s one of those rare thinkers who truly are ahead of their time. But it doesn’t show that the “great man” theory of history is right; it shows just the opposite. If the intellectual soil around a great man is not fertile, his work just won’t be noticed.

Happy birthday Gregor Mendel!

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “What We Inherit from Gregor Mendel

  1. More shout-outs to songwriters! I really like those. "You Don’t Know Me" is one of my favorites, and maybe my favorite Ray Charles track. It’s just such a great feel-sorry-for-yourself tune; not incidentally, it was on Charles’s album "Modern Sounds In Country & Western Music." (The soul of C&W is feeling sorry for yourself, which is why I can only take it in small doses; that’s a fun emotion at times, but not ALL the time. How do people watch Fox/listen to Rush constantly? Wouldn’t your "I’m mad as hell" receptors just burn out after a while? Apparently not.)

    My other favorite Charles songs are "Greenbacks" (a precursor to Cee-Lo’s wonderful "Fuck You") and "What’d I Say." I just include this trivia to include some trivia. The line "tell your mother / tell your pa / I’m gonna send you back to Arkansas" refers to the Arkansas governor refusing admittance of Black students to the state university. Charles was not apolitical; he just hid it well. To most listeners "Arkansas" simply sounds like a rhyme for "pa."

  2. @JMF – The songwriter thing really isn’t new. I’ve always been more interested in songwriters than performers. That’s especially true today when a "song" is 90% production. If a guy can sing a song alone with a guitar and make it work, that means the song is good. You can’t say that of a lot of hits stretching back a long way.

    I’m not sure how people deal with the constant outrage machine. It is a kind of addiction, I suspect. Righteous outrage feels good, although I don’t have a talent for it, despite all the writing.

    The best C&W is pretty much the same as the best blues: it is an authentic expression of the lives of working people. It’s funny that the huge increase in popularity of C&W music (in the 80s and early 90s) went along with it becoming more infantile and less reflective of real life.

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