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William Bateson, (born August 8, 1861, Whitby, Yorkshire, England—died February 8, 1926, London), British biologist who founded and named the science of genetics and whose experiments provided evidence basic to the modern understanding of heredity. A dedicated evolutionist, he cited embryo studies to support his contention in 1885 that chordates evolved from primitive echinoderms, a view later widely accepted. In 1894 he published his conclusion (Materials for the Study of Variation) that evolution could not occur through a continuous variation of species, since distinct features often appeared or disappeared suddenly in plants and animals. Realizing that discontinuous variation could be understood only after something was known about the inheritance of traits, Bateson began work on the experimental breeding of plants and animals.