Google Doodle Celebrates 100th Birthday of Nobel-Winning Chemist John Cornforth

Sep 07, 2017

Google's new Doodle marks the 100th birthday of Australian-born chemist John Cornforth, who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1975.

Born in Sydney on Sept. 7, 1917, Cornforth gradually lost his hearing throughout childhood, and became completely deaf by age 20. According to Google, he relied mostly on reading textbooks while studying chemistry at the University of Sydney as he was unable to hear the lectures.

It was also at university that he met his future wife, fellow chemist Rita Harradence. Together they wrote more than 40 scientific papers together.

During his doctorate studies at Oxford, in the middle of World War II, Cornforth was part of the team that worked on developing the understanding of penicillin, including how to purify and concentrate the antibiotic.

He then returned to his area of interest — stereochemistry, the study of three-dimensional structures of atoms and molecules and their effect on chemical reactions.

Cornforth's work on how enzymes activate changes in organic compounds earned him a Nobel Prize in 1975 with co-luareate Vladimir Prelog. After winning the prize, Cornforth said the research was "difficult to explain to the layman." But their work marked the beginning of many more breakthroughs, including the development of cholesterol-lowering drugs, which helped millions of people.

Cornforth died on 8 Dec. 2013 at age 96.

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