Gregor Mendel, an Austrian monk, is credited with discovering the basics of heredity. He is known as the father of modern genetics due to his experiments and discoveries. Mendel began to experiment in his monastery's garden in 1854, choosing peas because of the large number of varieties available.
Because of the speed at which peas can reproduce, Mendel was able to cross-fertilize plants with opposite characteristics in an attempt to discover exactly how genetics work. Up until that time, it was commonly believed that the offspring of any species automatically inherited a combination of traits from both parents.
Another commonly held belief during that period was that after a number of generations, a hybrid plant would eventually revert back to the original form and would be incapable of creating new forms. These beliefs were generally the result of minimal testing and experimentation.
Mendel spent about eight years cross-fertilizing pea plants, a relatively long period of testing compared to earlier research, eventually reaching two important scientific conclusions. The Law of Segregation established that both recessive and dominant traits are passed from parent to child. The Law of Independent Assortment concluded that each trait is passed on from parent to child independently of any other trait.