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Mendel Days 2022: Mendel and the World

Mendel Days 2022 began yesterday in the Augustinian Abbey in Old Brno. A rich programme with many lectures and cultural events was prepared by the Mendel Museum in cooperation with the MU Centre for Culture, Art and Events.

MU Rector Martin Bareš opened Mendel Days 2022 with a speech where he welcomed the lecturers and guests to Masaryk University and recalled that the event’s first two years were significantly hindered by the Covid-19 pandemic. “We were thinking about how to approach one of the most important scientists in world history. That is why we decided to start the tradition of Mendel Days. I think this year gives us yet another proof that it was the right decision,” said Mr Bareš.

This year’s Mendel Days are special, because in 2022, Masaryk University commemorates the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of modern genetics. That is why the organisers decided to make the programme of the two-day event a bit unconventional. “The theme of this year’s Mendel Days is ‘Mendel and the World’. A series of lectures on the international reception and impact of Mendel’s work will take place at the Mendel Museum and the Augustinian Abbey in Brno, with the participation of Czech and foreign experts,” said Blanka Křížová, director of the Mendel Museum.

Blanka Křížová, director of the Mendel Museum.

“When we were preparing the programme together with Ms Křížová, we thought it would be good if the programme also included information on how Johann Gregor Mendel perceived the global and European context,” added Jiří Hanuš, MU Vice-Rector for Personnel and Academic Affairs, in his opening remarks.

As part of Mendel Days 2022, the expert lectures are focused on the contribution of Mendel’s scientific work. His versatile personality and the reception of Mendel’s work in the world were described by Daniel Fairbanks from Utah Valley University (USA) right after the opening speeches in the Mendel Refectory. Peter van Dijk from the Netherlands followed up on this with a lecture on Gregor Johann Mendel’s important travels around the world, including his meeting with the Pope in the Vatican in 1863.

The evening programme included a presentation by Marek Orko Vácha, an educator and naturalist who spoke about the misuse of genetics throughout history. He explained that this scientific discipline was often abused by political ideologies in the past, but also suffered due to the scientific community’s own predictions as to what results it could yield. Vácha, who is also a Roman Catholic priest, then celebrated Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady from 8 p.m. with a musical performance of Duruflé’s Requiem.

Marek Orko Vácha

The Mendel Days continue on Thursday morning with a workshop on Teaching Mendel and Genetics, which will discuss how to appropriately convey information about Mendel’s life and work. Masaryk University will have three representatives among the presenters: Eva Chocholová, Eliška Svobodová and Hana Svozilová.

In the afternoon, the Brno Philharmonic Choir Beseda Brněnská will perform a concert titled the “Composers of Mendel’s time” in the Basilica. The choir conducted by Petr Kolář will perform the works of František Musil, Pavel Josef Křížkovský and Leoš Janáček. The two-day event marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Johann Gregor Mendel will conclude with a presentation from the Mendel Lectures series by chemist Kimoon Kim from the Republic of Korea.

In addition to the educational and cultural programme, the Mendel Museum has prepared another treat for the public – guided tours of the museum. “Guests can see the newly opened exhibition ‘Genetics: A Fascinating Journey into the Cell Nucleus’ and Mendel’s original room. As part of Mendel Days, the exposition of G. J. Mendel will also feature new paintings,” Křížová revealed. The artworks were donated to the museum by Professor Daniel Fairbanks, a renowned geneticist, historian and also one of the speakers at Wednesday’s programme.