By John Gribbin
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Additional resources for Mendel in 90 Minutes (Scientists in 90 Minutes Series)
For all that, the last ten years of Mendel's life were blighted by a stand that he took as a matter of principle, refusing to bend in a worldly-wise fashion. It all began in 1874, when the liberal government that Mendel himself supported (the irony was not lost on his political opponents) introduced a tax on monastic property, designed to offset government expenditure on religious affairs and, especially, to help provide for the stipends of parish priests. The tax was specifically to 54 LIFE A N D WORK provide a religious fund, not to make a contribution to the general finances of the government.
Still, he was a natural person for Mendel to make contact with, and as Mendel's own plant-breeding experiments continued in the 1860s (including experiments with hawkweed) he began a correspondence with Nageli. He sent a copy of the monograph to establish his credentials (the covering letter was written on New Year's Eve, 1866), and discussed his results in a series of ten letters 42 LIFE A N D WORK that together make up a body of work that any modern scientist would consider well worth publishing.
Its abbot was informed that its contribution to the fund would be 7,330 guilders per year for the five-year period 1875-1880. Gregor Mendel was the only abbot in the whole of the Empire who refused to accept the legality of the demand. He didn't even dignify the demand by going through the appeals procedure that had been set up to address situations where the institutions being taxed felt the assessment to be too high. By appealing, Mendel would have accepted the legality of the demand. Instead, he tried to fight the demand on legal grounds, going against the advice of the monastery's own lawyers.