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Genetics and Molecular Biology

Print version ISSN 1415-4757


STARK, Alan  and  SENETA, Eugene. A.N. Kolmogorov's defence of Mendelism. Genet. Mol. Biol. [online]. 2011, vol.34, n.2, pp.177-186. ISSN 1415-4757.

In 1939 N.I. Ermolaeva published the results of an experiment which repeated parts of Mendel's classical experiments. On the basis of her experiment she concluded that Mendel's principle that self-pollination of hybrid plants gave rise to segregation proportions 3:1 was false. The great probability theorist A.N. Kolmogorov reviewed Ermolaeva's data using a test, now referred to as Kolmogorov's, or Kolmogorov-Smirnov, test, which he had proposed in 1933. He found, contrary to Ermolaeva, that her results clearly confirmed Mendel's principle. This paper shows that there were methodological flaws in Kolmogorov's statistical analysis and presents a substantially adjusted approach, which confirms his conclusions. Some historical commentary on the Lysenko-era background is given, to illuminate the relationship of the disciplines of genetics and statistics in the struggle against the prevailing politically-correct pseudoscience in the Soviet Union. There is a Brazilian connection through the person of Th. Dobzhansky.

Keywords : Mendel's peas; hybrids; segregation ratio; Kolmogorov-Smirnov test; chi-squared test.

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