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Google doodle celebrates Heinrich Rudolf Hertz

Today's Google doodle celebrates the birthday of Heinrich Hertz, a German physicist who expanded the electromagnetic theory of light.

Head to the Google homepage today and you'll see waves moving on a graph. That's because today is the birthday of Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the German physicist who carried out pioneering work on electromagnetic waves. And Google has decided to celebrate the only way it knows how.

Hertz was the first person to prove the existence of electromagnetic waves, paving the way for the wireless telegraph, radio, and television. We all have a lot to thank him for. The frequency hertz (Hz) is also named after him, though he's nothing to do with the car rental company. So next time you hear about a phone with a 1GHz processor, spare a thought for the man who made it happen. 

Hertz was born in Hamburg in 1857. He was so precocious he obtained his PhD in 1880, when still in his early twenties. It was on electromagnetic induction in rotating spheres, which sounds a pretty fiendish subject to study at any age.

Five years later he discovered electromagnetic waves while working as a professor at the University of Karlsruhe. He proved the existence of radiation through experiments using a voltage induction coil, a condenser, a spark gap for his radio wave transmitter, and a ramshackle receiver made of copper and brass. Basic, but it did the trick.

His experiments became more advanced, and he was able to prove that electromagnetic radiation has the same velocity, reflection and refraction properties as light. This built on previous work by the British physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

Hertz died in 1894, aged just 36.

Google started its doodles in 1998 -- the first celebrated the Burning Man festival, and looks a little basic compared to today's more advanced efforts. It was designed by Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to let anyone visiting the search engine know that the duo were away, in case the servers crashed. Google has since set up its own archive, as well as an online shop where you can buy products bearing the doodles.

What do you think of this doodle? And which would you like to see in future? Let me know below in the comments, or over on our Facebook page.