If you visit Google today you’ll see a doodle of a man in a laboratory with two colorful strands of RNA floating overhead. This is a representation of Dr. Har Gobind Khorana who today would have turned 96 years old. His exact date of birth is unknown, but documents show January 9, 1922. Dr. Khorana died on November 9, 2011 at 89 years old.

A Nobel Prize Winner

Dr. Khorana created the first synthetic gene. He was known for his collaborative research on DNA and RNA, as well as being one of three recipients of the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physiology of Medicine. The prize was shared with Drs. Robert W. Holley and Marshall W. Nirenberg. Working together they researched the order of nucleotides in the nucleic acids within DNA and RNA—the four corresponding nucleobases: adenine, cytosine, uracil/thymine, and guanine. His research helped us better understand DNA and protein synthesis.

A Lifetime of Achievement

Dr. Khorana was born in Raipur, India which became later became part of Pakistan. He was the youngest of five children born to Ganpat Rai Khorana and Krishna Devi Khorana. His father, Ganpat, was an agricultural taxation clerk and put a heavy emphasis on educating his family. The Khoranas set the only literate family in their small village of about 100 people.

In 1945, Dr. Khorana left India to study for his Ph.D. at the University of Liverpool in England. Prior to 1945 he was unable to leave India, however an award of India Fellowship allowed him to pursue an education.

Between 1949 and 1952, Dr. Khorana was granted another fellowship and returned to England. During this time he became intrigued with nucleic acids and proteins found in RNA.

While studying in Switzerland, Dr. Khorana met and married his wife, Esther Elizabeth Sible, with whom he had three children. Much of Khorana’s work took place in Vancouver after he was offered a job there in 1952 and at the University of Wisconsin in 1960. After moving to Wisconsin, Dr. Khorana became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1966.

An Inspiration

Dr. Khorana’s desire for knowledge and incredible accomplishments show us that anything is possible if we work together and apply ourselves to the fullest. While scholarships made his schooling possible, his achievements were obtained through perseverance and teamwork.

Google’s latest doodle was drawn by Rohan Dahotre, an illustrator from Bangalore, India.

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