Hugo Marie de Vries (16th February 1848-21st May 1935) was a Dutch botanist, known chiefly for being credited along with Carl Correns and Erich von Tschermak for rediscovering Gregor Mendel's laws of heredity in 1900, and for later developing his own anti-Darwinian mutation theory of evolution.
By a quirk of history Correns was a student of Nägeli, a renowned botanist with whom Mendel corresponded about his work with peas but who failed to understand how significant Mendel's work was. Tschermak was a grandson of a man who taught Mendel botany during his student days in Vienna.
De Vries was educated at the Universities of Leiden, Heidelberg and Wurzburg. He became a professor of botany at the University of Amsterdam in 1878.
De Vries conducted a series of experiments hybridising varieties of plants in the 1890s and he discovered new forms among a display of the evening primrose Oenothera lamarcklana growing wild in a waste meadow. This led him to the same conclusions as Mendel: that inheritance of specific traits in organisms comes in particles. He even speculated that genes (which he called pangenes, basing his original model off of a modified form of Charles Darwin's theory of Pangenesis) could cross the species barrier, with the same gene being responsible for hairiness in two different species of flower.
In the late 1890s, de Vries became aware of Mendel's obscure paper of 40 years earlier, and he altered some of his terminology to match. When he published the results of his experiments in the French journal Comtes Rendus de l'Académie des Sciences in 1900, he neglected to mention Mendel's work, but after criticism by Correns, he conceded Mendel's priority.
De Vries developed his own theory of evolution known as the mutation theory (a form of saltationism), which posited that instead of Darwinian gradualism, new species could arise in single jumps. However it was later discovered that much of what De Vries was describing in terms of his evidence had nothing to do with what is now known as genetic mutation. In his time, though, De Vries's theory was one of the chief contenders for the explanation of how evolution worked, until the modern evolutionary synthesis became the dominant model in the 1930s.
He retired in 1918 from the University of Amsterdam but continued his studies with new forms.
His best known works are:
- Intracellular Pangenesis (1889)
- The Mutation Theory German edition (1900-03) English edition (1910-11)
- Species and Varieties: Their Origin by Mutation (1905)
- Plant Breeding (1907) German translation (1908)
- Ridley, Matt, The Agile Gene, 2003, ISBN 0-06-000679-X, pp 231-2.
- History of Horticulture
- Hugo de Vries on heredity
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