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Genetics has given rise to a number of subfields, including epigenetics and population genetics.Organisms studied within the broad field span the domain of life, including bacteria, plants, animals, and humans.Blending of traits in the progeny is now explained by the action of multiple genes with quantitative effects.Another theory that had some support at that time was the inheritance of acquired characteristics: the belief that individuals inherit traits strengthened by their parents.Although this pattern of inheritance could only be observed for a few traits, Mendel's work suggested that heredity was particulate, not acquired, and that the inheritance patterns of many traits could be explained through simple rules and ratios.The importance of Mendel's work did not gain wide understanding until 1900, after his death, when Hugo de Vries and other scientists rediscovered his research.William Bateson, a proponent of Mendel's work, coined the word genetics in 1905).Bateson both acted as a mentor and was aided significantly by the work of female scientists from Newnham College at Cambridge, specifically the work of Becky Saunders, Nora Darwin Barlow, and Muriel Wheldale Onslow.
Other theories of inheritance preceded Mendel's work.
James Watson and Francis Crick determined the structure of DNA in 1953, using the X-ray crystallography work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins that indicated DNA has a helical structure (i.e., shaped like a corkscrew).
This structure showed that genetic information exists in the sequence of nucleotides on each strand of DNA.
Sixteen years later, in 1944, the Avery–Mac Leod–Mc Carty experiment identified DNA as the molecule responsible for transformation.
The Hershey–Chase experiment in 1952 confirmed that DNA (rather than protein) is the genetic material of the viruses that infect bacteria, providing further evidence that DNA is the molecule responsible for inheritance.
This term, still used today, is a somewhat ambiguous definition of what is referred to as a gene.