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Please forgive me writing in English, but my pidgeon German isn't up to a complex question! I hope this is OK?

In Mendel's (absolutely brilliant) paper "Versuche über Pflanzen-Hybriden (1865)" (D) (E), he puts forward the concept of "factors" - what we now know as "genes" - that influence the inheritance of genetic traits. I thought that the German word for "factor" was "Anlage" (pl. Anlagen), but it appears that this is incorrect?

It appears that Anlage has many meanings - none of them factor in the sense that I'm looking for!

I would be grateful if anyone could tell me what word(s) he used for "factor" in German in the paper? I've tried looking at the English and then tracking down through the German, but I'm not getting anywhere.

  • The word “Factor” (current German “Faktor”, english “factor”) appears twice on the linked page. Not sure whether that is what you are looking for. – Carsten S Oct 20 at 15:41
  • @CarstenS - I searched for "fak" using two different browsers on the three pages to which I linked - "no matches found"? – Vérace Oct 20 at 16:10
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    You might want to look up the German "Erbanlage" – tofro Oct 20 at 20:31
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    Warum entschuldigen sich Menschen dafür, hier Englisch zu sprechen? You can even switch back and forth as far as I'm concerned. Ich bin hier, um Deutsch zu lernen. That's what the site is meant for. – RDBury Oct 21 at 2:00
  • From a short overfly, it seems to me that "factoren" (used twice) and "Anlage" are different things in the paper. A "Factor" being an abstract path to an expression of a hybrid specimen, not a specific trait. Mendel di not know about genes, yet. – a_donda Oct 21 at 21:13
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You are right, Mendel (the paper is brilliant, indeed, btw) is using the noun Anlage

Soweit die Erfahrung reicht, finden wir es überall bestätigt, dass constante Nachkommen nur dann gebildet werden können, wenn die Keimzellen und der befruchtende Pollen gleichartig, somit beide mit der Anlage ausgerüstet sind, völlig gleiche Individuen zu beleben, wie das bei der normalen Befruchtung der reinen Arten der Fall ist.

In this certain meaning, Anlage is denoting something potential, something that is coming its way, but not yet present, more specific: a (later called: genetic) predisposition. Anlage has other meanings as well, but in the area of genetics, it means just this: genetic predisposition. In German, in the semantic field of Anlage you will also find veranlagt sein ("to be predispositioned"), Erbanlage ("heritage disposition") and Veranlagung (predisposition).

Just as a side note to why Mendel might have chosen this word: The meaning Geld anlegen ("to make an investment") is also bearing this meaning of potential which might unfold (manifest itself) in the future. Maybe this is notion of potentiality was what he had in mind.

¹ It is a bit confusing that the word Factor also appears in the paper, but that is probably just a different ocurrence of factor. However, you might want to add an exact citation of your English translation, so we can rule this out.

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    my first understanding of Anlage was a machine. Then, yeah, Anlage is also Geldanlage etc. Anlage can be so many things. Maybe it is worth noting? – Shegit Brahm Oct 21 at 7:43
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In the texts you linked, the word "Factor" has been simply translated as "factor".

A quick search finds only two occurences, in chapter 9:

Wir müssen es daher als nothwendig erachten, dass auch bei Erzeugung der constanten Formen an der Hybridpflanze vollkommen gleiche Factoren zusammenwirken.

We must therefore regard it as certain that exactly similar factors must be at work also in the production of the constant forms in the hybrid plants.

and chapter 10:

Es bleibt mehr als wahrscheinlich, dass für die Veränderlichkeit der Culturgewächse ein Factor thätig ist, dem bisher wenig Aufmerksamkeit zugewendet wurde.

It is more than probable that as regards the variability of cultivated plants there exists a factor which so far has received little attention.

In modern orthography, the word is written "Faktor" and is rather unspecific, see e.g. https://www.dwds.de/wb/Faktor - but as far as I know that's basically the same in English.

The word "Anlage" is used only once in the texts in chapter 9 and - rather vaguely - translated as "material":

Soweit die Erfahrung reicht, finden wir es überall bestätigt, dass constante Nachkommen nur dann gebildet werden können, wenn die Keimzellen und der befruchtende Pollen gleichartig, somit beide mit der Anlage ausgerüstet sind, völlig gleiche Individuen zu beleben, wie das bei der normalen Befruchtung der reinen Arten der Fall ist.

so far as experience goes, we find it in every case confirmed that constant progeny can only be formed when the egg cells and the fertilizing pollen are of like character, so that both are provided with the material for creating quite similar individuals, as is the case with the normal fertilization of pure species.

I didn't read the whole text, but I see no reason to use "Anlage" instead of "Faktor". See e.g. https://dict.leo.org/german-english/factor and https://dict.leo.org/german-english/Anlage, which lists "anlage" as translation for "Anlage" in biology - see jonathan.scholbach's answer for the meaning of the word in this context.

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  • as tofro and jonathan.scholbach talk about Erbanlage, it might be useful to distinct Anlage from a machine. Because the translation "material" does not fit in my ears. Maybe source material. Hence it is a given translation and not yours, right? – Shegit Brahm Oct 21 at 7:42
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    @Shegit Brahm "material" is cited from the translation the OP linked in the question. It does fit, I'd say, but is really vague. I think jonathan.scholbach explained the meaning of "Anlage" in this specific context well in his answer. – Lykanion Oct 21 at 7:47

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