Google Honors Nobel Laureatte Har Gobind Khorana on His 96th Birthday


Google Doodle

By Jawahar Malhotra

HOUSTON: People logging onto Google on Tuesday, January 9 were pleasantly surprised by a Doodle of a bespectacled man working in a laboratory with what appeared to be a DNA sequence in the background. If you hovered over the Doodle you saw the phantom caption identifying the man as Har Gobind Khorana, and if you clicked on it, the link took you a top stories page which showed Khorana’s Wikipedia page, twitter feeds about him and three inset pictures and highlighting stories that were trending about why Google was honoring him.

Har Gobind Khorana as a young man

Har Gobind Khorana as a young man

For most people, Khorana is not a well-known personality, but in the sphere of natural sciences, and especially in microbiology, Khorana is a giant who shared the 1968 Nobel Prize for Physiology with Marshall W. Nirenberg and Robert W. Holley for research at the University of Wisconsin that showed the order of nucleotides in nucleic acids which carry the genetic code of the cell and control the cell’s synthesis of proteins.  Khorana and Nirenberg were also awarded the Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize from Columbia University in the same year.

Har Gobind Khorana in later years

Har Gobind Khorana in later years

Korana’s story is an inspiration to those who believe that a brilliant mind can never be trampled by humble beginnings or the lack of money. He was born in Raipur, a village in Punjab (which later became Pakistan), in British Occupied India on January 9, 1922 – the reason why Google placed his Doodle on his 96th birthday – as the youngest of five children. Although poor, his family was the only literate one in the village and he received the first four years of his education under a tree in the village, a practice that still continues to this day in many parts of India.

He attended the DAV High School in Multan, and then went onto Punjab University in Lahore, receiving his Masters of Science in 1945. He left in 1945 to pursue his PhD at the University of Liverpool receiving it in 1948, and then postdoctoral studies at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Switzerland, where he met and married his wife Esther Elizabeth Sibler. Khorana moved to Canada in 1962 and then to the US in 1960, becoming a US citizen in 1966. Esther died in 2001 and their daughter Emily Anne died in 1979; his survivors are their daughter Julia Elizabeth and Dave Roy.

Google released three Doodles on January 9, and different ones were viewed depending on the user’s geographic location. The Doodle in Khorana’s honor was drawn by Bangalore-based illustrator Rohan Datore.

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