Top of page

Mendel to DNA Structure to Translational Medicine

Share this post:

The following is a guest blog post by Science Reference and Research Specialist Dr. Tomoko Steen.

Unveiling in 2001 of a plaque (lowermost) in the courtyard of Tübingen castle close to the laboratory where the first isolation of nucleic acid was accomplished by Friedrich Miescher. (Photo used by permission from Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Rammensee at Interfakultäres Institut für Zellbiologie, University of Tübingen)

This week (November 7-8, 2013) the Library of Congress will celebrate the life of Gregor Johann Mendel, the discovery of DNA structure, and the discoveries in biology that are critically necessary for the advancement of clinical and translational medicine.

Gregor Johann Mendel, a Silesian friar known as the father of genetics initiated experimental studies on the laws of inheritance using a variety of plants including peas.  His discovery of the laws, now known as Mendelian inheritance, was a scientific breakthrough that was initially overlooked.  Mendel presented his results in a paper, Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden [Experiments on Plant Hybridization] at two meetings of the Natural History Society of Brno in Moravia on February 8 and March 8, 1865.  After Mendel’s presentations, the key element of inheritance, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), was first isolated by Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss physician at the University of Tübingen in 1869.

The relationship between DNA and inheritance was not uncovered until the 20th century.  The rediscovery of Mendel’s results was followed by a chromosomal theory of inheritance and by an understanding of how complex traits involved multiple Mendelian determinants.  By the middle of the 20th century, DNA was thought to be the repository of genetic information and the molecule became a focus of intense study.  It was 60 years ago that James Watson and Francis Crick published their monumental paper Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acids: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid in Nature, v. 4356, April 25, 1953: 787-788 claiming their discovery of the structure of DNA and indicating how the structure of DNA could facilitate the storage and inheritance of genetic information.

The Library’s Science, Technology, and Business Division is sponsoring a panel discussion and lecture/book signing for the 60th anniversary of the discovery of DNA structure.

In April 2013, the 60th anniversary of DNA structure was marked in Tübingen by the unveiling of a DNA double helix sculpture next to the main church of Tübingen. The man in the foreground is Prof. Bohley; the lady half behind the plate is nobelist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard. (Photo used by permission from Professor Dr. Hans-Georg Rammensee at Interfakultäres Institut für Zellbiologie, University of Tübingen)

On November 7th,  a panel will discuss  “Translational Medicine: Advancing from Bench to Bedside.”  The panel is moderated by Orla Smith, the Managing Editor of the Science Translational Medicine and includes two prominent Nobel laureates: Dr. James Watson, an author of the paper published in Nature 60 years ago and Dr. Carol Greider, a recent Nobel laureate in Physiology or Medicine based on her co-discovery that telomeres are protected from progressive shortening by the enzyme called telomerase.  Carol Greider is the Daniel Nathans Professor and Director of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University.  The discussion starts at 11:30 a.m.  in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.

On November 8th, the Division will sponsor Jan Klein, Director Emeritus of the Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science and current Frances R. and Helen M. Pentz Visiting Professor of Science in the Department of Biology at Pennsylvania State University for a talk on his biography of Gregor Johann Mendel, Solitude of a humble genius-Gregor Johann Mendel.  A native of the Czech Republic- the region where Mendel also called home- Klein is an internationally known immuno-geneticist and has done extensive research on Mendel’s work using the scientist’s original papers and notes.  Klein’s presentation is accompanied with illustrations by coauthor and nature illustrator, Norman Klein.  This event will start at 11:30 a.m. in the Montpelier Room on the sixth floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E.,Washington,D.C.

These programs are free and open to the public. Tickets are not required, but space is limited and early arrival is advised. Also, these events will be recorded and later broadcast on the Library’s webcast and YouTube pages in the coming months.

To learn more about topics related to the lectures you might find the following reference guides of interest:



  1. The DNA model of Watson and Crick is wrong: the two chains are not intertwined but go in parallel. For more details, see my article “DNA: the Double Helix or the Ribbon Helix?”
    Attention: my model radically differs from a well-known Side by Side model.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Required fields are indicated with an * asterisk.