For the latest Google Doodle, the search giant is honoring an award-winning chemist whose research in organic chemistry had a profound impact on how plants are used for medicinal purposes.
This award-winning chemist also happened to be a woman. Asima Chatterjee was the first female scientist to earn a doctorate in science from an Indian University. (Because women can do science too, Google memo dude.)
The design of the Google Doodle is striking. It’s been transformed into a skeletal formula, a series of hexagons with single and double bond lines between them, commonly used to represent carbon and hydrogen atoms in organic chemistry. Chatterjee herself is represented as a modest, bespectacled woman with green leaves for hair, a nod to her work in Indian medicinal plants.
The Doodle shows a skeletal formula and a drawing of Chatterjee with green leaves for hair, a nod to her work in Indian medicinal plants
Chatterjee was born on September 23, 1917, in Calcutta, then in British India. She earned her undergraduate degree from Scottish Church College, and later her master’s and doctorate of science from University of Calcutta, all in chemistry.
In 1940, Chatterjee joined Lady Brabourne College in Calcutta, as the founder and head of the college’s department of chemistry. In 1944, she was appointed as an honorary lecturer in chemistry at University of Calcutta; and later took a role as reader in the same department, in 1954.
Her researched focused largely on medicinal properties of plants native to India, and contributed to the development of drugs that treated epilepsy and malaria. As Google writes on its landing page for the Chatterjee doodle:
She made significant contributions in the field of medicinal chemistry with special reference to alkaloids, coumarins and terpenoids, analytical chemistry, and mechanistic organic chemistry. She published around 400 papers in national and international journals and more than a score of review articles in reputed serial volumes. Her publications have been extensively cited and much of her work has been included in several textbooks.
According to the Indian Academy of Sciences, Chatterjee “successfully developed anti-epileptic drug, Ayush-56 from Marsilia minuta and the anti-malarial drug from Alstonia scholaris, Swrrtia chirata, Picrorphiza kurroa and Ceasalpinna crista.”
Chatterjee was also the first female scientist to be elected as the General President of the Indian Science Congress, in 1975. She died on November 22, 2006.
There’s also another Google Doodle appearing above the search bar today, this one celebrating Saudi Arabia National Day, the anniversary of the country’s unification in 1932.