Dr. Anna Matalová has dedicated her decades-long career to researching the history of Gregor Mendel, and also promoting and facilitating the research of others. She is the world’s foremost living Mendel scholar. She is the Emeritus Head of the Mendelianum of the Moravian Museum in Brno, the author of “Centrum Mendelianum” and “Mendel – a multifaceted personality: conceptions for the 21st century”, and the author of dozens of Mendel-related papers. She is also the lead author of a new book titled Gregor Mendel: The Scientist, which contains a large compilation of images and texts of original documents related to Mendel, scheduled for publication by Springer this year.
This year is the bicentennial of Mendel’s birth. You were instrumental in organising a fund for the restoration of Mendel’s childhood home where he was born 200 years ago in Hynčice (now part of Vražné) in what was then Silesia. Could you tell us about the renovation and the current use of the home as a museum and cultural centre?
After the fall of the Iron Curtain in Europe, one of Czechoslovak President Václav Havel´s priorities was to restart the social and cultural life in the borderland. The Mendelianum of the Moravian Museum, and local and regional authorities of Moravian Silesia supported by Mendel´s German speaking countrymen created a proposal for the reconstruction of the complex of buildings of the farm of Mendel´s parents to convert it into a social and cultural meeting place. The Mendelianum, with the support of the president of the Academy of Sciences in Prague, developed the conception of the International Memorial to Mendel to be realised in Mendel´s home. In this respect, the Mendelianum prepared an exhibition on Mendel´s life in one of the former dwelling houses of the Mendel family. The proposal was welcome, and money granted from a special ministerial fund. Many Czechs and Germans also contributed financially. The reconstruction and installation in Mendel´s former home were supervised by the mayor of the village, which also operates Mendel´s reconstructed home as a museum. The former barn is now a large hall arranged with tables and chairs where singing, dancing and other performances are held. Smaller rooms are used for seminars, family feasts and accommodation of visitors.
Members of the Genetics Society will greatly benefit from your forthcoming book, Gregor Mendel: The Scientist, which will be one of the most important scholarly works on Mendel ever written. Could you briefly tell us about the book and what motivated you and Eva to prepare it?
Springer offered us the opportunity to publish a Mendel book, and we accepted with pleasure. The book is an iconography of Mendel as a scientist, illustrating his search for knowledge, his teaching and experimental activities, progressive engagement in modernisation of school education, his active participation in the work of scientific societies, and his complicated abbatial years. We present the Mendelian collection of archival documents founded by J. Kříženecký in the Moravian Museum in Brno, comprising the items from Iltis’ first Gregor Mendel Museum in Brno, the Natural Science Society, the Agricultural Society and recent findings of Mendelian scholars. The book provides transcriptions of German originals and their English translations. Some historical documents from Mendel´s activities are published for the first time in this book.