Google pays tribute to Denmark’s other famous Hans Christian

Evarado Alatorre
Setiembre 13, 2019

Google Doodle Friday celebrated the contributions of Danish microbiologist Hans Christian Gram, the man who behind the Gram stain - the first step in the preliminary identification of a bacterial organism. The Google Doodle has been illustrated by Danish artist Mikkel Sommer, and it depicts Hans Christian Gram's work on the Gram strain.

Hans Christian Gram's namesake staining technique was a groundbreaking discovery in the study of microbiology. Scientists, doctors and medical technicians still use this method to identify and classify bacteria into different types. The Danish microbiologist gained global recognition for his development of the Gram stain - a method of staining bacteria, to make them more noticeable under a microscope.

Gram was the son of a professor of jurisprudence Frederik Terkel Julius Gram and mom Louise Christiane Roulund.

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More than a century later, Gram's simple staining method, named after its inventor, is still widely used. Gram was drawn to natural science early in life, earning a the Copenhagen Metropolitan School in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was here that Gram discovered that treating bacteria with a cocktail of crystal violet stain, iodine solution, and organic solvent would reveal key structural differences in different bacterial samples. For example, the antibiotic penicillin is active only against Gram-positive bacteria. He is best remembered for his bacteria staining technique in 1884 - a seminal innovation essential for observing bacteria under a microscope. Terms like "Gram-positive" and "Gram-negative" were coined after him.

Gram-positive bacteria appear purple under a microscope because their cell walls are so thick that the solvent can not penetrate them, while Gram-negative bacteria have thinner cell walls that allow the solvent to wash away the stain. Pneumococci, which can result in a lot of diseases, are classified as Gram-positive.

Little did he know it would still be used more than a hundred years later.

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