The Washington Post

Google Doodle celebrates Vitamin C scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi


Today’s new Google Doodle celebrates the fruits of one man’s labors.

On its home page Friday, the California company celebrates the 118th birthday of the late great scientist Albert Szent-Györgyi, “discoverer” of Vitamin-C and father of the citric acid cycle.

The Google logo is made over to look like a juice label, with colorful citrus fruit bursting forth.

The Budapest-born researcher won the 1937 Nobel Prize for Physiology/Medicine for “his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes, with special reference to vitamin-C and the catalysis of fumaric acid.” Earlier that decade, he — working with other scientists — isolated and identified the scurvy-fighting vitamin by, in part, testing guinea pigs with vitamin-C-rich paprika.

(Google’s Doodle notably includes paprika next to the oranges, strawberries and grapefruit.)

Szent-Györgyi’s other professional honors included the Lasker Award (1954) and the Cameron Prize/Edinburgh (1946), and he was a visiting professor at Harvard, among his numerous university affiliations.

He also won the Silver Medal of Valour for his service during World War I, but reportedly wounded himself with his own revolver so he could get back to his scientific studies by 1917. About two decades later, he was actively working to help defeat the Nazis. After the Second World War, he settled in Massachusetts and became research director at the Institute of Muscle Research.

His many published works include Oxidation, Fermentation, Vitamins, Health and Disease (1939), Muscular Contraction (1947), The Nature of Life (1947) and Contraction in Body and Heart Muscle (1953) — as well as his impassioned 1970 commentary The Crazy Ape.

Szent-Györgyi — who was born into several generations of scientists in 1893 — died in Massachusetts in 1986, at age 93.

He once wrote: “Life is a wondrous phenomenon. I can only hope that some day, man will achieve a deeper insight into its nature and its guiding principles and will be able to express them in more exact terms. ...

“To express the marvels of nature in the language of science is one of man’s noblest endeavors.”

Eloquently expressed, Professor. Happy birthday.

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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