Kölreuters Entdeckung

By a simple, but ingenious experiment, Joseph Kölreuter won the Award of the Russian Academy of Sciences and later became the first director of the Botanical Garden.
The crucial point in Kölreuter's experiment - the hybrid shows traits from both, father and mother. This meant that factors of inheritance were blended.

The question, whether plants are sexual beings, moved society in the 18. century. Although it was already known that flowers have to be pollinated to obtain fruits, the pollen was just seen as a kind of male "waking call" activating the slumbring embryos in the female flowers.

Generally, the concept of sexuality was still very nebulous - it was believed that women are just "vessels", that help the male seed to develop into a child. To decide this debate, the Russian Empress Catharina the Great announced an award.

This award went to Joseph Kölreuter, later the first director of the newly founded Botanical Garden in Karlsruhe. He decided the debate by a simple and elegant experiment. He used two wild tobacco species that clearly differed in flower form and pollinated the stylum of each species with the pollen of the other and vice versa. The "bastards" from these crossings were an exact blend of father and mother, no matter, in what direction the cross was made. Kölreuter concluded that father and mother contribute to inheritance symmetrically which meant that the factors of inheritance must exist in two versions. This was the decisive move that helped Gregor Mendel 100 years later to conceive the "hidden" dominant-recessive inheritance. Kölreuter was called by the Duke of Baden to Karlsruhe - without knowing, with his experiment he had initiated a new science, later called genetics.

Without knowing, and certainly without the intention to, Kölreuter contributed to gender fairness. Inheritance was not confined to the male seed, but acted symmetrically through both parents. The path from genetic to political equality was still quite lengthy, though...