Today Google has commemorated the birthday of Dorothy Hodgkin in its logo. This is pretty cool, for a number of reasons:
- She was a pioneer in X-ray crystallography, the field of science which I use on an almost daily basis.
- She was a woman! In science! And she received the Nobel Prize for her achievements. That’s not so common, huh?
- She discovered the 3-D structure of biologically-important molecules like insulin and vitamin B12, which helped to revolutionize medicine.
- If you look closely at the Google logo, you’ll see that it’s a ball-and-stick model: the balls represent atoms of different chemical elements, and the sticks represent the bonds between them, which give the molecule its structure. In the background, you can see what looks like a contour map – in fact, these contours are the hills and valleys of electron density (rather than land in a conventional map) that give the positions of the atoms, determined by analyzing how X-rays are scattered by a crystal of the substance (a.k.a. diffraction). The molecule’s name? Penicillin.