(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘heredity

“Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined”*…


Crown shyness


In certain forests, when you look up you will see a network of cracks formed by gaps between the outermost edges of the tree branches. It looks like a precisely engineered jigsaw puzzle, each branch growing just perfectly so it almost—but not quite—touches the neighboring tree. This beautiful phenomenon is called crown shyness.

Crown shyness doesn’t happen all the time, and scientists aren’t completely certain why it happens at all…

The forest keeps its secrets… Despite decades of study– and a profusion of postulation– no one yet fully understands “The Mysteries of Crown Shyness.”

* Alexander Pope


As we keep to ourselves, we might spare a thought for Gregor Johann Mendel; he died on this date in 1884. After a profoundly-unpromising start, Mendel became a scientist, Augustinian friar, and abbot of St. Thomas’ Abbey in Brno, Moravia (today’s Czech Republic).  A botanist and plant experimenter, he was the first to lay the mathematical foundation of the science of genetics (of which he is now consider the “Father”).  Over the period 1856-63, Mendel grew and analyzed over 28,000 pea plants.  He carefully studied the height, pod shape, pod color, flower position, seed color, seed shape and flower color of each– and from those observations derived two very important generalizations, known today as the Laws of Heredity.



Written by LW

January 6, 2020 at 1:01 am

Feeling blue?…


Your correspondent recently received an email from a genealogically-inclined first cousin concerning a possible common ancestor, one Martin Fugate, who, it appears, may be our great-great-great-great-great-grandfather.  Grandpa Martin was an orphan, an immigrant from France to Kentucky in the late 18th Century– unremarkable for the time in any way, but one: he seems to have introduced into his bloodline a rare condition called “methemoglobinemia“… that’s to say, for generations to come many offspring were (and are) born with blue skin coloring…

Benjamin “Benjy” Stacy so frightened maternity doctors with the color of his skin — “as Blue as Lake Louise” — that he was rushed just hours after his birth in 1975 to University of Kentucky Medical Center.

As a transfusion was being readied, the baby’s grandmother suggested to doctors that he looked like the “blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek.” Relatives described the boy’s great-grandmother Luna Fugate as “blue all over,” and “the bluest woman I ever saw.”

In an unusual story that involves both genetics and geography, an entire family from isolated Appalachia was tinged blue. Their ancestral line began six generations earlier with a French orphan, Martin Fugate, who settled in Eastern Kentucky.

Doctors don’t see much of the rare blood disorder today, because mountain people have dispersed and the family gene pool is much more diverse. But the Fugates’ story still offers a window into a medical mystery that was solved through modern genetics and the sleuth-like energy of Dr. Madison Cawein III, a hematologist at the University of Kentucky’s Lexington Medical Clinic…

Read the rest of this ABC News story here.  And find a more complete version of the history in the Science 82 report here.

As we remind ourselves that in-breeding isn’t restricted to the South, we might recall that it was on this date in 1828 that John Adams II, son of then-President John Quincey Adams, married his first cousin, Mary Catherine Hellen, in a White House ceremony.  John II’s grandfather, President John Adams, had married his third cousin, Abigail Smith.  Intermarriage skipped a generation with John Quincy Adams, who married a non-relative.

Then, in 1853, John II’s and Mary’s daughter, Mary Louisa Adams, also married a family member–her second cousin, William Clarkson Johnson, the son of her first cousin, Abigail Louisa Smith Adams– President John Adams’ great-grandson… notable for two reasons: both bride and groom were descended from President John Adams, and at the same time, it was the first marriage between descendants of two different presidents.

 John Adams II (source)

Written by LW

February 25, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: