William Bateson

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William Bateson (Yorkshire, 8 August 1861 – 8 February 1926) was a British zoologist, a Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge University. He was the first person to use the term genetics to describe the study of heredity, and the chief populariser of the ideas of Gregor Mendel, after their rediscovery in 1900 by Hugo de Vries and Carl Correns.[1][2]

Career[change | change source]

Crayon drawing by D.G. Lillie, 1909.

Bateson became famous as a mutationist who believed evolution took place by jumps. Later, Ronald Fisher and J.B.S. Haldane showed that discrete mutations were compatible with gradual evolution: see the modern evolutionary synthesis.

Bateson was the first to suggest the word "genetics" to describe the study of inheritance, in a letter to Adam Sedgwick, dated April 18, 1905. Bateson first used the term "genetics" publicly at the Third International Conference on Plant Hybridization in London in 1906. Although this was three years before Wilhelm Johannsen used the word "gene" to describe the units of hereditary information, De Vries had introduced the word "pangene" for the same concept already in 1889 and etymologically the word genetics finds its origin in Darwin's concept of pangenesis.

Bateson co-discovered genetic linkage with Reginald Punnett, and he and Punnett founded the Journal of Genetics in 1910. Bateson also coined the term "epistasis" to describe the genetic interaction of two independent traits. So important from 1900 to 1910, he was almost a bystander for the next ten years because he refused to accept the role chromosomes played in genetics. At last, in 1921, a visit to T.H. Morgan's fly lab convinced him, but by then he could no longer recover his influence.[3]

References[change | change source]

  1. Olby R (1987). "William Bateson's introduction of Mendelism to England: a reassessment". British Journal for the History of Science 20 (67): 399–420. doi:10.1017/S0007087400024201. PMID 11612343.
  2. Bateson, Beatrice, William Bateson, naturalist: his essays and addresses together with a short account of his life; Cambridge University Press, 1928 (reissued by the publisher 2009, ISBN 978-1-108-00434-3)
  3. Cock AG (1983). "William Bateson's rejection and eventual acceptance of chromosome theory". Annals of Science 40: 19–59. doi:10.1080/00033798300200111. PMID 11615930.