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Today’s Google Doodle honors a Nobel Prize-winning DNA researcher

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Har Gobind Khorana traveled through several countries conducting research

Google’s logo today is a tribute to an Indian-American biochemist who played an important part in figuring out how DNA works.

The Google Doodle honors Har Gobind Khorana, who won a Nobel Prize in 1968 for his work on genes and nucleotides, which are the basic structural units of DNA. He was born on January 9th, 1922, or 96 years ago today. Khorana was the youngest of five children, and his father helped all five learn to read and write, which was uncommon for villagers in Raipur, India at the time.

When Khorana grew up and attended college in the US, he was able to gain scholarships and obtain a doctorate in organic chemistry by 1948, when he was 26 years old. His work took him to England, Switzerland, and Canada, and it was eventually at the University of Wisconsin where he and two researchers discovered that the order of nucleotides in our DNA determines how the body builds its amino acids. These amino acids then form proteins, which take care of essential cell functions. A few years later, Khorana went on to construct the first synthetic gene.

Google released three Doodles for today, depending on a user’s geographic location. Khorana’s Doodle was shared across the most countries, including in the US, Canada, Argentina, Peru, Australia, Japan, and Sweden. Those in Greece and Indonesia will see a Doodle about the 25th anniversary of Rafflesia arnoldii, an Indonesian plant nicknamed “the corpse flower” for its aroma. Meanwhile, those in the Middle East will see a Doodle celebrating the 82nd birthday of Arabic poet and radio host Farouk Shousha.

Khorana’s Doodle was drawn by Bangalore-based illustrator Rohan Dahotre. In early drafts of the Doodle shown below, Dahotre appears to have experimented with what sort of science-themed illustrations he could pair with Khorana’s profile.

Early draft of Har Gobind Khorana’s Doodle.