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Rights: The University of Waikato
Published 20 November 2007

The rediscovery of Mendel's work in 1900 began a series of revelations about genetics that would continue throughout the 20th century. What were some of these revelations?


Sir Paul Nurse

The story of genetics is an extraordinary one. It is almost certainly, without doubt, the greatest story of the 20th century in biology, with working out the classical laws of genetics and then the discovery of DNA, deoxyribonucleic acid, as the basis of hereditary material.

DNA is made up of a series of letters - you can view it as a series of letters. Those letters encode information exactly as Mendel's particles predicted. And then these particular letters can be spelt out in a language, called the Central Dogma, where copies are made into RNA and then the RNA is translated into protein, where the order and type of amino acids [the basic building blocks of proteins] is determined by the sequence of letters in the DNA. And because those proteins determine the characteristics of an organism, now we begin to understand how genes can work.