The Washington Post

GOOGLE DOODLE: Animation marks the 200th birthday of chemist Robert Bunsen

The baker can dispense with the candles: Today’s birthday boy comes with his own form of eternal flame.

On Google’s home page today, its animated fire-and-beakers “doodle” marks the 200th birthday of German chemist Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen — a man of science, a man of success and, so notably to the wider world, a man with a “burner” named and flickering in his honor.

Bunsen, who was born March 31, 1811, in Gottingen, Germany, co-developed with University of Heidelberg mechanic Peter Desaga the burner that so brightly illuminates — usually — only one of their names.

(In the 1850s, the story goes, Bunsen and Desaga built their controlled flame to tap the gas that powered Bunsen’s new university lab.)

Beyond the single, open gas flame that burns in the grade-school science memories of so many — and in labs the world over — the chemist also discovered or helped discover caesium and rubidium, and pioneered photochemistry.

Also still illuminating the way is the prestigious annual Bunsen-Kirchhoff prize for analytical spectroscopy, which has been awarded to young scientists since 1990.

So in honor of your birthday, Mr. Bunsen, let the brilliant flame burn.

Writer/artist/visual storyteller Michael Cavna is creator of the "Comic Riffs" column and graphic-novel reviewer for The Post's Book World. He relishes sharp-eyed satire in most any form.

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