Google Doodle celebrates Vitamin C pioneer with oranges

Albert Szent-Györgyi gets the doodle treatment on his 118th birthday, but we probably owe him much more.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

Google continues its growing tradition of celebrating scientific and cultural pioneers who might not be household names, but whose work is part of our daily lives. While today's citrus-filled doodle on the search engine front page first appears to indicate that Google has sold out to Tropicana, it's actually a tribute to Albert Szent-Györgyi's 118th birthday.

Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

What, you weren't already taking the day off to celebrate? In case you're not in the know, Albert, whose full name is Albert von Szent-Györgyi de Nagyrápol, is the person credited with discovering Vitamin C and the citric acid cycle. That work earned him a Nobel Prize in 1937. He was also one of the first to look into connections between free radicals and cancer, and according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, "his discoveries about the biochemical nature of muscular contraction revolutionized the field of muscle research."

Szent-Györgyi is the guy who made possible those awesome fizzy drinks that keep airplane cooties away. National Institutes of Health

Some people might see fit to retire after a Nobel and revolutionizing your field, but Szent-Györgyi opted instead to move into research in "submolecular" biology, applying quantum physics to biological processes.

Still not impressed? Did I mention he received a medal of valor after being wounded in World War I, did a stint working undercover to fight the Nazis during World War II, had a warrant for his arrest personally issued by Adolf Hitler and spent two years as a fugitive from the Gestapo? Maybe we really ought to get a day off from work to celebrate this epic Hungarian's birthday...

After the war, he spent a few years chairing a department at a university in Budapest before coming to the United States in 1947 and resuming his research at Woods Hole, Mass. He passed away in Woods Hole in 1986.

Recently, Google has taken to celebrating departed cultural and scientific icons with its doodles, including the recent detailed animation marking Freddie Mercury's birthday and lesser-known names like Szent-Györgyi and 17th century mathematician Pierre de Fermat.