Biology

How our Understanding of Genetics Has Changed Over Time

How our Understanding of Genetics has Changed Over Time Genetics as a field of science has come quite far from being a crude belief system that tries to explain why children resemble their parents, and explained through the assumptions by early Greek scholars with regards to the mixing of the vital forces of a man and a woman in forming new life (Guttman, 2011). The fast expansion and discovery of new information with regards to the process of heredity was due to the numerous inventions that were used to study biological sciences, as well as refining methods by which the invisible are being studied. In a short amount of time, genetics, especially through molecular biology became a well-respected science with regards to the study of the transmission of traits from parent to offspring, as well as being able to trace diseases that are otherwise communicable or transferable. The basics of genetics was first studied and published in 1865 by a monk named Gregor Mendel. He studied the pattern of inheritance by garden peas, recorded what traits were present in the parent generation, what were transmitted in the first and succeeding generations, as well as finding out what ratios of the selected traits would be found in each generation of offspring (Hartl, 2011). Through these peas experiments the concept of dominant and recessive traits were formulated. Unfortunately, his results were shelved and remained hidden until rediscovered around the early 1900’s, by two independent scientists Walter Sutton and Theodore Boveri, forming the chromosomal theory of inheritance (Cummings, 2010). This theory of inheritance explained how Mendel was able to come up with phenotypic ratios such as the 3:1 ratio, where 3 out of four would show the dominant trait, and 1 out of four for recessives. The ratio however was only able to explain traits that require at least one dominant gene to be expressed. The traits of organisms might be affected by the presence of other mediators of heredity, and aside from the chromosomal theory of inheritance, it was proposed that the process of inheritance may also be explained through chemical reactions. Thus around the 1940’s-1950’s scientists were now on a race to find out the molecular basis of inheritance. The theories that were proliferating were either: the genetic materials were made up of proteins. or the genetic materials were made up of nucleic acids. Two scientists working together, named James Watson and Francis Crick won the race of finding out the structure of the genetic material by coming up with the specific base-pairing of the genetic material as well as the use of codon triplets in order to encode different amino acids (Hartl, 2011). They were given the Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, and even explaining its semi-conservative nature to the scientific community. When the structure of DNA was finally revealed, scientists were able to initiate projects which aimed to find out the full sequences of many organisms on the planet, including humans. In the late 1990’s, the Human Genome Project was initiated in order to fully map all genes present in the human genome. As the project progresses, information regarding as to what genes encode for what protein,

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