Genetics is the field of science that examines how traits are passed from one generation to the next. Simply put, genetics affects everything about every living thing on earth. An organism’s genes, snippets of DNA that are the fundamental units of heredity, control how the organism looks, behaves, and reproduces. Because all biology depends on genes, understanding genetics as a foundation for all other life sciences, including agriculture and medicine, is critical.
From a historical point of view, genetics is still a young science. The principles that govern inheritance of traits by one generation from another were described (and promptly lost) less than 150 years ago. Around the turn of the 20th century, the laws of inheritance were rediscovered, an event that transformed biology forever. But even then, the importance of the star of the genetics show, DNA, wasn’t really understood until the 1950s. Now, technology is helping geneticists push the envelope of knowledge every day.