- Bateson , William
- (1861–1926) British geneticistBorn in the coastal town of Whitby in northeast England, Bateson graduated in natural sciences from Cambridge University in 1883, having specialized in zoology. He then traveled to America, where he studied the embryology of the wormlike marine creatureBalanoglossus. He discovered that, although its larval stage resembles that of the echinoderms (e.g. starfish), it also has gill slits, the beginnings of a notochord, and a dorsal nerve cord, proving it to be a primitive chordate. This was the first evidence that the chordates have affinities with the echinoderms.Back at Cambridge Bateson began studying variation within populations and soon found instances of discontinuous variation that could not simply be related to environmental conditions. He believed this to be of evolutionary importance, and began breeding experiments to investigate the phenomenon more fully. These prepared him to accept Mendel's work when it was rediscovered in 1900, although other British scientists were largely skeptical of the work. Bateson translated Mendel's paper into English and set up a research group at Grantchester to investigate heredity in plants and animals.Through his study of the inheritance of comb shape in poultry, Bateson demonstrated that Mendelian ratios are found in animal crosses (as well as plants). He turned up various deviations from the normal dihybrid ratio (9:3:3:1), which he rightly attributed to gene interaction. He also found that certain traits are governed by two or more genes, and in his sweet-pea crosses showed that some characters are not inherited independently. This was the first hint that genes are linked on chromosomes, but Bateson never accepted T.H. Morgan's explanation of linkage or the chromosome theory of inheritance.In 1908 Bateson became the first professor of the subject he himself named – genetics. However he left Cambridge only a year later and in 1910 became director of the newly formed John Innes Horticultural Institution at Merton, Surrey, where he remained until his death. He was the leading proponent of Mendelian genetics in Britain and became involved in a heated controversy with supporters of biometrical genetics such as Karl Pearson. The views of both sides were later reconciled by the work of Ronald Fisher. Bateson wrote a number of books, including the controversial Materials for the Study of Variation (1894) andMendelian Heredity – A Defence (1902); he also founded, with R.C. Punnett, the Journal of Genetics in 1910.
Scientists. Academic. 2011.