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  The function of sex was debated intensely by life scientists (among others) in the 18th and 19th centuries (see ovism). The discovery of sperm by Antonie van Leeuwenhoek (1632 - 1723) and the (erroneous) discovery of the female egg brought the suggestion from the ovists that the function of sperm was to activate the egg so that its preformed contents might grow. With the advent of cell theory and the discovery of the true mammalian egg, the observation that sperm and egg fuse during fertilization was accepted and led, naturally, to the assumption that characteristics of each parent were blended as a result. The true situation, that sets of chromosomes from both parents are paired to form a diploid zygote, was not realized until the early 20th century when the work of , Gregor Mendel (1822 - 1884) was rediscovered. This explained how sexual reproduction could lead to variation in the offspring. RB

See also gene theory; pangenesis; sexual selection.



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