The doodle, designed by Bengaluru-based illustrator Rohan Dahotre, has been featured by Google on Khorana’s 96th birth anniversary.

Who was Har Gobind Khorana the Indian-American biochemist honoured by Google doodleHar Gobind Khorana/Wikimedia Commons
news Science Tuesday, January 09, 2018 - 13:01

The global scientific community continues to be intrigued by the human genetics and is working hard to unravel its mysteries.

Much of our understanding present of genes’ roles in the human body owes plenty to Indian-American biochemist Har Gobind Khorana, who was honoured with the Google doodle on Tuesday.

The doodle, designed by Bengaluru-based illustrator Rohan Dahotre, has been featured by Google on Khorana’s 96th birth anniversary.

Google doodle honours Har Gobind Khorana

Who was Har Gobind Khorana?

Born in a village in undivided Punjab in 1922, Khorana was and his four siblings were the only literate family in their village of about 100 residents.

Khorana began by studying at a school in his village which was under a tree, and showed a flair for science from a young age.

He went for further studies on scholarships. After studying chemistry at the University of Punjab in Lahore, he got his Master’s in 1945. Two years before the line of partition between India and Pakistan would run right through his state, the British administration offered Khorana a PhD fellowship from the University of Liverpool in the UK.

After completing his PhD, Khorana worked in Zurich, Switzerland for a year, and attained expertise in chemical synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids.

After doing research in Switzerland and Canada, Khorana started working in Institute for Enzyme Research and the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

It was here that he “helped to decipher how RNA encodes for the synthesis of protein”, which is what ultimately won him the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1968 along with Marshall Nirenberg and Robert Holley.

Khorana’s also succeeded in the construction of the world’s first synthetic gene. This was a major breakthrough in biochemistry, which also made way for scientists to manipulate life at its most basic states.

He became a US citizen in 1966 and an MIT faculty member in 1970.

While Khorana was known as a modest and down to earth man despite his accomplishments, he also used to say, “I only work on big problems.”

His pursuit for scientific temper and curiosity continued even in his last days.

“Three days before he passed away, I was by his hospital bed and we talked about glucose and the brain,” his friend Uttam L RajBhandary wrote.

Khorana passed away on November 9, 2011 of natural causes. He was 89 years old.

His Wikipedia page is available to read in 15 Indian languages including Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu and more.  

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