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Masaryk University: It is All About Mendel

Gregor Johann Mendel, the founder of the laws of inheritance, was born two hundred years ago, on 20 July 1822. Masaryk University has joined the celebrations of the 200th anniversary by its numerous events and activities.

The founder of modern-day genetics Gregor Johann Mendel is one of the most significant personalities who have ever worked or lived in Brno. Representatives of Masaryk University, the Old Brno Abbey, the City of Brno, the South Moravian Region and other institutions and partners have prepared numerous events and have come up with the main idea for this unique project celebrating the 200th anniversary. It will culminate in this week’s Mendel Genetics Conference with many top scientists in attendance, including three Nobel Prize laureates.

Project Mendel
Masaryk University started the year of celebrations of the 200th anniversary of birth of Gregor Johann Mendel in November 2021 when it announced the exhumation of the remains of the scientists from the tomb of the Order of Saint Augustine and presented the first results of analyses of his DNA. That being said, the project as such was launched in summer of 2021 when the university, in coordination with other institutions, carried out an archaeological survey of the Augustinian tomb at Brno’s central cemetery; its purpose was to find, remove and identify the remains of the founder of genetics. At the same time scientific study was in progress at the abbey where scientists focused on Mendel’s personal effects and managed to obtain his genetic material. On 5 November Gregor Johann Mendel’s remains were reburied in a separate grave within the tomb during a proper ceremony.

Mendel at Dubai’s EXPO 2020
Masaryk University and its partners presented Mendel at an exhibition entitled Mystery of Knowledge at EXPO 2020 in Dubai. The exhibition was on display in the “rotation room” of the Czech pavilion in the first half of March. Visitors had the opportunity to pass through a wall made from DNA fibres and “travel back in time” to the time when the founder of genetics lived and worked. Also on display were Mendel’s glasses or a fragment of a flag from Masaryk University’s polar station named after Johann Gregor Mendel.

Double helix from the letter M
Commemorating the 200th anniversary of birth of Gregor Johann Mendel, Masaryk University is presenting new design style of its merchandise. The double helix in the visual style is based on the logo and the first letter in the name of the university. The limited collection of promotional items titled MOJE DNA in Czech or MY DNA in English respectively can be purchased online at MUNISHOP. The “Year of Mendel” at Masaryk University is symbolised by a “MENDEL 200” logo in blue. The main design element of the event is a new portrait of the scientist, a line art drawing by the Hrdina & Pavlík duo of architects. The drawing of Gregor Johann Mendel with the text JSEM GENIÁLNÍ in Czech or I AM GENIUS in English respectively is also featured on other promotional merchandise items.

Mendel in comics in Telč
Masaryk University’s University Centre Telč celebrated the anniversary via its travelling comics exhibition of Mendel Museum in March. Individual letters in the exhibition represented key milestones in the life of the founder of genetics and his other activities in research and elsewhere.

Pea plants and small garden in the Botanical Garden
Mendel’s famous experiments with pea plants were symbolised in April by green inflatable pea in the Botanical Garden of Faculty of Science of Masaryk University. Its employees also renovated Mendel’s flower beds that can be visited during the whole summer.

Lecture by Marek Orko Vácha
Speaking at a lecture in April, scientists, educator, writer and priest Marek Orko Vácha referred to Mendel as “resilient genius”. His lecture at the Faculty of Education was provocatively titled Gregor Mendel známý všude, jen ne u nás? (Gregor Johann Mendel: Famous Everywhere but Here?).

New exhibition – Genetics: An Extraordinary Journey to Cell Nucleus  
Masaryk University’s Mendel Museum prepared a new exhibition entitled Genetics: An Extraordinary Journey to Cell Nucleus. It invites visitors into the mystery of cell nucleus, allowing them to learn about Mendel’s experiments and discoveries, as well as the fundamental aspects of genetics and molecular biology. Contributing to the attractiveness of the exhibition is the interactive element and models created by Masaryk University students. In addition to the new exhibition visitors have a unique opportunity to travel back in time to the first half of the 19th century and experience the atmosphere of the place where Mendel was writing down the summaries of his experiments – his room on the first floor of the abbey is included in the guided tour.

Velké tajemství (A Big Secret) as an opera
Composer and Faculty of Arts professor Miloš Štědroň has written a libretto for a thirty-minute chamber opera entitled Velké tajemství (A Big Secret). He composed the libretto using Mendel’s actual correspondence and also managed to implement in the plot, in a humorous manner, another key figure of Brno of that time – in one episode composer Leoš Janáček is arriving to congratulate Mendel.

Exhibition in the city centre
Masaryk University also participated in the exhibition at Malinovské náměstí (square), not far from the venue of Mendel’s first lecture. Panels of the exhibition entitled Johann Gregor Mendel 1822–2022 presented the results of the project “Výzkum tělesných ostatků a genetické informace opata Gregora Johanna Mendela” (Analysis of remains and genetic information of abbot Gregor Johann Mendel) and demonstration of follow-up research.

Mendel Genetics Conference
Building on last year’s research is, on 20–23 July, the Mendel Genetics Conference 2022 with many excellent scientists from all over the world in attendance, including three Nobel Prize laureates. Masaryk University has prepared a special issue of Magazine M for the conference.

At the same time Mendel Festival will take place where many educational and entertainment events will be offered to the general public, as will commented tours and numerous cultural events.

The celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth will continue between 15 August and 25 September in the form of an exhibition titled Gregor Johann Mendel neznámý (The Unknown Gregor Johann Mendel) at Moravské náměstí. The Mendel Days event is scheduled for 2–3 November. At the end of the year, Masaryk University experts will head to Antarctica. Built in 2007 by Masaryk University, the polar station on James Ross Island is named after Gregor Johann Mendel.