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MU to participate in foundation of sustainability centre named for Mendel

Brno has recently commemorated the anniversary of the death of Gregor Johann Mendel by wrath laying ceremony at Brno’s central cemetery. Masaryk University Rector Martin Bareš also signed a memorandum of cooperation on the foundation of “Gregor Mendel Centre for Sustainability”.

MU Rector Martin Bareš and Rector of Mendel University Jan Mareš

Gregor Johann Mendel put Brno on the map; but only after his death. The founder of genetics actually became famous all over the world with some delay. His laws of biological inheritance from the 19th century are still valid today. The famous scientist died on 6 January 1884. Representatives of the South Moravian Region, the City of Brno, Masaryk University and other institutions commemorated the 139th anniversary of his passing, joining the Augustinian community with wrath laying ceremony and a short prayer at Mendel’s grave. “I am now reading Simon Mawer’s book Mendelův trpaslík that I got for Christmas. It is fiction for the most part, but it still made me realise how little we still know about Mendel’s story. I am grateful for today’s service and I realise I need to read a genuine biography because his work and personality are fascinating,” said Governor of the South Moravian Region Jan Grolich.

Vice-Rector Šárka Pospíšilová

“The City of Brno wants to support activities associated with the promotion of Mendel’s legacy going forward. His personality increases the attractiveness of the city and contributes to the growth of tourism and investments in research and development,” Mayor of the City of Brno Markéta Vaňková added.

Masaryk University, Mendel University, the Global Change Research Institute of the Czech Academy of Sciences, the Old Brno Abbey of the Order of St. Augustine and Společně, o.p.s. signed a memorandum of cooperation in Mendel’s greenhouse opened in front of Mendel Museum at the end of last year.

The signatories of the memorandum aim to support the principles of long-term sustainable development, which will be the mission of the planned Gregor Mendel Centre for Sustainability.

“We want Masaryk University to be an inspiring community which, through its principles and everyday actions, fully respects and fulfils the principles of social responsibility, and contributes to the solutions of the goals in the area of sustainable development. This are is incorporated in our strategy, as is the support of development of teaching and research in fields which build on Mendel’s activities,” MU Rector Martin Bareš explained.

The inspiration for the foundation of Gregor Mendel Centre for Sustainability comes from the activities of the Augustinian community in Brno in the second half of the 19th century. Back then the abbey supported young talents in education and research and was a centre of culture and education in Brno. The support for the centre will entail financial backing as well, as it is a priority for projects that build on Mendel’s work, and not just in life sciences.

Commemorating the signing of the memorandum, the Old Brno Abbey Museum opened a new exhibition entitled Vědec v labyrintech světa. It is dedicated to Mendel and his role of an abbot. Furthermore, Eva Drozdová from the Section of Genetics and Molecular Biology of the Faculty of Science received an award from the Order of Saint Augustine for her involvement in the preparation of the celebrations of the 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth.

Eva Drozdová from the MU Faculty of Science

Throughout 2022 Masaryk University organised numerous events commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth. The project included various events and lectures for experts and the general public but especially the unique project of exhumation and study of DNA on Mendel’s remains carried out by scientists from Masaryk University in coordination with experts from many institutions. This project culminated in the international Mendel Genetics Conference with three Nobel Prize laureates and other notable scientists in attendance.

MU also presented Mendel through the Mystery of Knowledge exhibition on the “rotating room” of the Czech Pavilion at EXPO 2020 in Dubai. Exhibitions focused on Mendel were also organised in the University Centre Telč, as well as at Malinovské náměstí and Moravské náměstí in the city centre or the botanical garden of the Faculty of Science.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of Mendel’s birth Masaryk University introduced a new visual design of its merchandise featuring the double helix was combined with the logo and the first letter of the name of the university.

Masaryk University’s Mendel Museum prepared a new exhibition entitled Genetics: The Wonderful Journey into the Cell Nucleus. Musicologist, composer and Faculty of Arts professor Miloš Štědroň wrote a libretto for a 30-minute chamber opera entitled Velké tajemství based on Mendel’s correspondence. The traditional Mendel Days were dedicated to the topic “Mendel and the world” and focused on a series of lectures on the reception and influence of his work internationally. The event Týden humanitních věd (Social Science Week) at the Faculty of Arts added other perspectives – that of culture and education – to the traditional Mendelian topics concerning inheritance.

Mendel’s name is prominently featured in Antarctica, as scientists arriving there at the end of January have found out. The polar station built by Masaryk University on James Ross Island sixteen years ago is named for Gregor Johann Mendel.