On this date, the Dutch botanist and early geneticist Hugo Marie de Vries was born. He is known chiefly for suggesting the concept of genes, rediscovering the laws of heredity in the 1890s while unaware of Gregor Mendel’s work, for introducing the term “mutation”, and for developing a mutation theory of evolution.
In 1889, De Vries published his book Intracellular Pangenesis, in which, based on a modified version of Charles Darwin’s theory of pangenesis of 1868, he postulated that different characters have different hereditary carriers. He specifically postulated that inheritance of specific traits in organisms comes in particles.
De Vries conducted a series of experiments hybridizing varieties of multiple plant species in the 1890s. Unaware of Mendel’s work, De Vries used the laws of dominance, segregation, and independent assortment to explain the 3:1 ratio of phenotypes in the second generation. His observations also confirmed his hypothesis that inheritance of specific traits in organisms comes in particles.
In the late 1890s, De Vries became aware of Mendel’s obscure paper of thirty years earlier and he altered some of his terminology to match. When he published the results of his experiments in the French journal Comtes Rendus de l’Académie des Sciences in 1900, he neglected to mention Mendel’s work, but after criticism by Carl Correns he conceded Mendel’s priority. Thus, Correns, Erich Tschermak von Seysenegg, and De Vries now share credit for the rediscovery of Mendel’s laws.