According to Melanie Mitchell's book, Complexity: A Guided Tour [PDF], Mendel's model

[...] was published in a rather obscure journal and was not appreciated as being of great importance until 1900, after which several scientists had obtained similar results in experiments.

The Wikipedia page for his paper describes his work as "being largely forgotten". So, how was his work rediscovered again, given that 45 years are very long comparing to human lifetime?

I hope that I am not exaggerating, but either someone had to read his paper and still remember it after 45 years (which contradicts the claim of its "being largely forgotten"), or re-read every old paper just to come across his (which has a very low chance with an obscure journal).

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    Commented Jul 6, 2020 at 13:41
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1 Answer 1


The story is told in the Wikipedia article.

Mendel's work was not "forgotten" but rather "ignored" because it did not fit in the mainstream science of that time. But some people go to libraries and read old papers. So when discoveries which were "much ahead of its time" are eventually rediscovered it is frequent that someone finds an older work. Such things happen regularly. The work published in established scientific journals usually does not disappear, as long as we have scientific libraries. Such things constantly happen in all sciences. For example, the Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) algorithm was rediscovered several times in the 19th and 20th centuries, until it became "common knowledge".

Opinions on which journals are "obscure" and which are not are always highly subjective.

  • $\begingroup$ Paper copies in scientific libraries, good. I wonder if a paper published today in an online-only journal will be available in any form 45 years in the future... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 17:19
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    $\begingroup$ This is what worries me too. The worst thing is that many libraries destroy paper copies of old journals. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:33
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    $\begingroup$ Especially "obscure" ones. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 20, 2017 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ You mean such things "happen constantly" rather than "happen permanently" (awkward usage). $\endgroup$
    – KCd
    Commented Aug 24, 2017 at 9:55

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