Chromosomes were first discovered in 1842 by the Swiss botanist Karl Wilhelm von Nageli. The name "chromosomes," meaning "colored bodies," was coined by Edouard van Beneden in 1888.
While von Nageli was the first to identify the string-like bodies in the cell nucleus, he assumed incorrectly that they formed an interlinked network throughout the whole organism. He could not have had any idea of their role in heredity, as the mechanism of cell division was not understood at the time. Von Nageli became infamous in scientific history as the man who discouraged Gregor Mendel from continuing his groundbreaking work on heredity.