May 21, 2024

Google Doodle honours Australia’s only Nobel Prize winner in chemistry

Google’s new Doodle may look like a bunch of items you’d find in your high school science class, but all those cartoon beakers are in celebration of Sir John Cornforth, Australia’s only Nobel Prize-winner in chemistry.

Cornforth died just four years ago, just one year after his wife, scientist Rita Cornforth, passed away. The Doodle celebrates what would have been his 100th birthday.

Cornforth gained his Nobel Prize in 1975 for his work on the stereochemistry of enzyme-catalysed reactions — not the easiest work to break down in layman’s terms, but suffice to say rather important in the world of drug discovery.

The degree of Doctor of Science (honoris causa) was conferred upon Sir John Warcup Cornforth at a ceremony held in the Great Hall on Nov. 2, 1977.

According to his alma mater, the University of Sydney, Cornforth went deaf early in life, using textbooks instead of lectures and relying on fellow researcher and University of Sydney chemistry alumnus Rita for assistance with lip reading and sign language. The university now awards the Rita and John Cornforth Medal for Ph. D achievement.

“The Cornforths made a remarkable contribution to the world,” says University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal Dr Michael Spence. “It was perhaps Sir John’s determination to consult primary sources, and celebrate science as an ongoing endeavour, that made his work so precise and compelling.”

Google’s other recent Australian Doodles include an Australia Day special on Jan. 26, featuring World Heritage Site the Great Barrier Reef, and a Doodle to celebrate iconic Aboriginal Australian artist Albert (Elea) Namatjira’s 115th birthday on Jul. 28.

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