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Recent Donation to the Mendel Collection with a Fascinating Provenance

A Mutually Beneficial Relationship between Religion and Science

“There is no conflict between religion and science” – Abbé Lemaître

Popular culture today frequently portrays Science and Religion as two opposing forces that understand the natural world in drastically different ways. A new acquisition to Falvey’s Distinctive Collections paints a very different picture.

Mendel’s principles of heredity. A defense. / With a Translation of Mendel’s Original Papers on Hybridisation. Cambridge: William Bateson, 1902.


Last month an anonymous donation of a first edition Defense of Mendel’s principles of heredity, by William Bateson (1902), was generously gifted in honor of the outstanding career of Professor Angela DiBenedetto, Villanova University Biology Department. This is the first book on Mendelism in English, and the first English textbook of genetics. It contains a reprint of the English edition of Mendel’s ‘Versuch uber Pflanzen-Hybriden’ together with the new English edition of Mendel’s second paper on ‘Hieracium’ (1869). The author, Bateson, is responsible for naming this scientific study “genetics” (c. 1905-06).



A signature on the front pastedown of this copy reads “J. Aldrich”. John Merton Aldrich (1866-1934) was an American entomologist interested in the study of flies and North American Diptera. Aldrich was a prolific collector, known for his ability to find rare species previously unknown to Western naturalist classifications, and likely the first owner of this copy. Aldrich also taught religion at All Souls Unitarian-Universalist Church in Washington D.C. As the Associate Curator of Insects at the United States National Museum, he donated his collection of over 45,000 specimens / 4,000 named specimens to the museum, which today is one of the most important Diptera collections in the National Museum.

Lemaitre Follows Two Paths to Truth: The Famous Physicist, Who is Also a Priest, Tells Why He Finds No Conflict Between Science and Religion by Duncan Aikman. The New York Times Magazine, February 19, 1933.

Georges Lemaître (1894-1966) was a Belgian Catholic priest, astronomer, and professor of physics. He is known for proposing the Big Bang theory, from which he derived the Hubble-Lemaître law: the observation that galaxies are rapidly expanding. This article was printed in 1933. The very next year, Villanova awarded Lemaître the Mendel Medal.

Einstein and Lemaître—“They Have a Profound Respect and Admiration for Each Other.”

Villanova awards the Mendel Medal annually to “outstanding scientists who have done much by their painstaking work to advance the cause of science, and, by their lives and their standing before the world as scientists, have demonstrated that between true science and true religion there is no intrinsic conflict.” The Mendel Medal is named for Gregor Johann Mendel (1822-1884) Abbot of the Augustinian Monastery in present-day Brno, Czech Republic who discovered the laws of heredity which now bear his name. The Medal was established in 1928 to recognize scientific accomplishment and religious conviction.



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Last Modified: June 2, 2023

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