Its Danish microbiologist Hans Christian Gram's 166th birthday and Google is celebrating with a new Google Doodle.
The Google Doodle was illustrated by Mikkel Sommer, a Danish guest artist, who depicted the important work of Gram, who died 4 November 1938.
The Gram technique of identifying bacteria still used today
He is credited with devising a staining technique to identify and classify different types of bacteria. The technique is still used today and has become the first stop for microbiologists identifying bacteria.
Gram was the son of a professor of jurisprudence Frederik Terkel Julius Gram and mom Louise Christiane Roulund. In his early studies, Gram was focused on natural science but after earning a B.A. at the Copenhagen Metropolitan School and working as an assistant in botany at a zoo, he became interested in medicine.
Gram earned his M.D. in 1878 from the University of Copenhagen and held positions in several Copenhagen hospitals as an assistant. He won an award for an essay on the size and number of human erythrocytes in chlorotics. Following that, he traveled throughout Europe, where he studied bacteriology and pharmacology. Eventually, his travels led him to work in the lab of Karl Friedländer, a German microbiologist.
It was there that he discovered that by treating a sample of bacteria with a crystal violet stain, iodine solution, and organic solvent, he could see the structure of different types of samples. The cells that were considered to be Gram-positive, have more peptidoglycan and less lipid content than the bacteria that are deemed Gram-negative.
Gram was modest about his findings
Gram-positive bacteria appeared purple when looked at under a microscope while Gram-negative bacteria was able to be washed away with the solvent. Thanks to Gram, pneumococci, which is blamed for causing several diseases, tested Gram-positive.
The Danish microbiologist's findings were published in a scholarly journal in 1884 where he wrote: “I have therefore published the method, although I am aware that as yet it is very defective and imperfect; but it is hoped that also in the hands of other investigators it will turn out to be useful.”
Little did he know it would still be used more than a hundred years later.