The concept of the Google Doodle was born on Aug. 30, 1998, when company co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin placed a simple stick-figure drawing behind the second "o" in the word Google. This first Google logo art was intended as a message to the site's users that the founders were "out of office" at the Burning Man festival.
While this first little doodle was a relatively simple sketch, the idea of decorating the Google logo to celebrate notable events was born -- a tradition which is today stronger than ever. As the doodles have continued to grow, new technologies have led to more complex, entertaining, and creative artistic concepts. Today, Google employs a team of illustrators and engineers known as "Doodlers" to brighten up the Google home page.
First published Sept. 26, 2013. Updated Feb. 13, 2017: Added a number of post-2013 Google Doodles.
This Dec. 16, 2003, doodle commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first controlled, powered heavier-than-air manned flight by the Wright brothers a few miles south of Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903. Truth be told, there is a continuing debate about who ought to receive recognition, with champions of the famed Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont arguing that he was first.
On Sept. 10, 2008, the doodle commemorated the Large Hadron Collider, a high-energy particle collider in Switzerland that researchers have used to test different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics. It's also played a central role in the hunt to prove the existence of the Higgs-Boson, the sub-atomic particle that was predicted about a half century ago.
On July 29, 2008, the Google doodle commemorated the 50th anniversary of NASA's founding, which was an indirect response to the Soviet Union's launch of Sputnik 1, the world's first artificial satellite.
This doodle on Jan. 28, 2008, marked the 50th anniversary of the Lego brick, established in Billund, Denmark, by master carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, who was aided by his 12-year-old son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen.
On Jan. 1, 2008, the doodle was dedicated to the arrival of the new year, as well as to mark 25 years since the invention of Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), the basic communication protocol for the Internet.
On Nov. 13, 2009, Google celebrated the discovery of water on the moon. The doodlers had only four hours to work on this from start to finish -- an exciting day for a doodler as well as for the world of science.
Asteroid explorer Hayabusa was launched May 9, 2003, and rendezvoused with the near-Earth asteroid named 25143 Itokawa in mid-September 2005. After arriving at Itokawa, Hayabusa studied the asteroid and then in November 2005, it landed on the asteroid and collected samples which were returned to Earth aboard the spacecraft on June 13, 2010, when this doodle was posted.
On May 21, 2010, for the 30th anniversary of the Pac-Man video game, Google created one of the most popular doodles ever. This was an interactive doodle which blended the Google logo and Pac-Man into a fully playable game.
Marcin Wichary, senior UX designer and developer, recalls:"When I was growing up, my dad had the best job I could possibly imagine: He was an arcade game and pinball technician. For me, that meant summer trips through Poland's coastal cities with their seasonal arcade parlors; peeking inside cabinets to learn programming and engineering secrets; and, of course, free games!"
Doodler Sophia Foster-Dimino posted to the Google blog on the occasion of Pierre de Fermat's 410th birthday on Aug. 17, 2011:
"Fermat wrote many little theorems, including the deceptively simple Last Theorem, which states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn when n is greater than two. Fermat first scrawled this supposition in the margins of the Arithmetica by Diophantus, followed by the note: 'I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which this margin is too narrow to contain.' It remains hotly contested to this day whether Fermat actually did have a proof, or whether he was just using the convenient excuse of a small margin to avoid being held responsible for it. Either way, his theorem remained unproved until 1995, when British mathematician Andrew Wiles successfully developed a solution -- a saga documented in the excellent BBC Horizon documentary, 'Fermat's Last Theorem.' We were so tickled by Fermat's little jab that we tried something similar. When this doodle ran, the hover text read: 'I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this theorem, which this doodle is too small to contain.'"
On June 9, 2011, for jazz guitarist Les Paul's 96th birthday, Google created one of the coolest doodles ever. Another interactive, playable logo, this time inspired by the guitar developed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee who made the sound of rock and roll possible.
Google says that in the first 48 hours in the US, people playing music on the guitar doodle recorded 5.1 years' worth of music and 40 million songs using the doodle. And all those songs were played back 870,000 times!
Another amazing musical doodle, on May 23, 2012, Google celebrated the 78th birthday of Robert Moog, who unleashed a new universe of sounds into musicdom with his invention of the electronic analog Moog Synthesizer, influencing a generation of music.
For Heinrich Rudolf Hertz's 155th birthday, the Google doodle took on an entirely new form on Feb. 22, 2012. Hertz was the first to conclusively prove the existence of electromagnetic waves by engineering instruments to transmit and receive radio pulses using experimental procedures that ruled out all other known wireless phenomena.
This storytelling doodle marks the 66th anniversary of the Roswell Incident and an alien, who, despite having mastered interstellar space travel, appears less than adept at making a smooth landing on Earth. Watch the whole doodle here.
Douglas Adams, one of the most celebrated and beloved humorists of the 20th century, had an imagination that defied gravity and soared past Earth's atmosphere. As a young man, he famously got the first inkling of an idea for "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" while hitchhiking across Europe, pausing to contemplate the starry night sky. See the interactive doodle here.
The doodle from Feb. 19, 2013, was a nod to astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus, a shining star of the Renaissance. His major contribution to science is his heliocentric theory, which asserts that the sun is the center of our solar system.
To mark the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Google launched a series of interactive doodles championing its own 2016 Doodle Fruit Games. Over two weeks, fruit such as coconuts, strawberries and watermelons from a fruit stand in Rio compete in races and other feats of skill, strength and stamina for the title of "freshest fruit."
In the days leading up to Election Day 2016 in the US, Google posted a series of doodles designed to remind people to get out and vote. It also linked to information about the measures and candidates on specific ballots, about voting locations and about how to vote in English and Spanish.
Twice a year, we get a solstice, one marking the start of summer and the other the start of winter. Actually, we get both at once twice a year, given the Earth's division into Northern and Southern hemispheres. On Dec. 20, 2016, Google marked the split-personality occasion with dueling doodles, a leafy, boisterous one for the onset of the southern summertime and another, pictured here, for the hunker-down shivery embrace of the northern winter.
Nothing says Valentine's Day quite like a scaly mammal, right? In Google's eyes, it does, when two members of the endangered species find love and, presumably, the urge to reproduce. That's how the search giant rocked the romance to celebrate the day for sweethearts in February 2017.