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Old 19-12-2012, 07:17 PM   #17
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Lightbulb M Peas

Dr. Benedict Lambert is a molecular biologist who led his class at Oxford University. He is the great-great-great nephew of Gregor Mendel, the father of genetics and he was born with achondroplasia, a condition in which the cartilage at the ends of the long bones does not develop properly, causing dwarfism. Despite his dwarfism, Lambert—as he indicates is true of all with his condition—has normal sexual organs and desires, and he eventually manages an exhausting affair with a young married woman who is enduring a difficult marriage. Their relationship concludes tragically for all concerned..

Author Simon Mawer develops Lambert’s story with great skill in MENDEL’S DWARF, alternating its stages with vignettes from the career of Gregor Mendel, the Austrian monk whose brilliant work— unacknowledged in his lifetime—enabled Lambert’s own career and his obsession with the genetic roots of his achondroplasia. Mawer provides for Mendel his own bittersweet romance with a married woman, a tender, Chekhovian romance that always remains confined to silences and flushed cheeks but competes with Lambert’s story for the reader’s interest.

In the mid-19th century, Austrian monk Gregor Mendel's observations of pea pods led to the principles of Mendelian genetics, the foundation of modern genetics. He ended up growing and examining about 27,000 pea plants in the course of his experiments. Mendel chose peas for his experiments because he could grow them easily, develop pure-bred strains, protect them from cross-pollination, and control their pollination. Mendel cross-bred tall & dwarf pea plants, green & yellow peas, purple & white flowers, wrinkled & smooth peas, and a few other traits. He then observed the resulting offspring. In each of these cases, one trait is dominant and all the offspring, or Filial-1 generation, showed the dominant trait. Then he crossed members of the F1 generation together and observed their offspring, the Filial-2 generation. The F2 plants had the dominant trait in approximately a 3:1 ratio. Mendel reasoned that each parent had a 'vote' in the appearance of the offspring and the non-dominant or recessive trait appeared only when it was inherited from both parents. He did further experiments that showed each trait is separately inherited. Unwittingly, Mendel had solved a major problem with Charles Darwin's theory of evolution: how could new traits be preserved and not blended back into the population? But Darwin never learned about it...

Mawer is himself an Oxford-trained zoologist, and he provides mini-lectures, complete with footnotes and illustrations, to summarize Mendel’s experiments and to clarify just what Lambert is up to in his laboratory work. Mawer sneers at students of genetics and studies of IQ, asserting that “Genes code for protein. They don’t do anything else, and there simply isn’t any protein with a domain marked ’intelligence’.” He backhands biologist Trofim Lysenko (an easy target) and reports that DNA screening reveals that “something like ten percent of the children of happily married couples have in fact been fathered by ... a different male.”..The name "marrowfat pea" for mature dried peas is recorded by the Oxford English Dictionary as early as 1733. The fact that an export cultivar popular in Japan is called Maro has led some people to assume that the English name "marrowfat" is derived from Japanese. In the United Kingdom, dried, rehydrated and mashed marrowfat peas, known by the public as mushy peas..

Last edited by lightgiver; 19-12-2012 at 07:49 PM.
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