Saturday, February 16, 2013
Dutch botanist and early geneticist Hugo de Vries was born on February 16, 1848, in Haarlem, the Netherlands. He studied botany at Leiden University, where he was influenced by Charles Darwin's idea of “pangenesis” (a hypothetical mechanism for heredity), and then studied at Heidelberg. In 1889, unaware of the biological work of Gregor Mendel in the 1860s, he published Intracellular Pangenesis, postulating that different characteristics of organisms have different hereditary carriers and that specific traits come in particles he called “pangenes.” This term was shortened to “genes” by Danish botanist Wilhelm Johannsen in 1909. Experimenting with the evening primrose (pictured), de Vries introduced the term “mutations” for the plant’s suddenly appearing variations and new varieties. His work The Mutation Theory (1900–1903) suggested that evolution might occur more rapidly than Darwin believed.