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Robert Bunsen: The man behind today's Google Doodle

Robert Bunsen honored with an animated Google Doodle. But who was Mr. Bunsen?

By / March 31, 2011

Robert Bunsen, German chemists, gets a special 200th birthday present from Google.

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Google's homepage turned the spotlight on yet another brilliant scientist. After nods to Thomas Edison and Wilhelm Rontgen's X-rays, Google has done it again with an animated tribute to Robert Bunsen.

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Bunsen is best known for his namesake Bunsen burner, a staple of high school chemistry class. The burner, designed by Bunsen and his assistant, marked a major step forward for lab tools.

Born on March 30, 1811, Bunsen would have turned 200 yesterday. (We're not sure why Google posted this doodle today and not Wednesday, his actual birthday. But Bunsen contributed so much to science that we'll give Google a pass. Besides, this 200th anniversary breaks Google's usual trend of pooh-poohing round numbers.)

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Bunsen's best work came in the 1860s, when he discovered two new elements. Cesium – atomic number 55 – now plays an essential role in atomic clocks. Rubidium – atomic number 35 – is one of the ways to create purple fireworks. Both elements live on the far left side of the periodic table. His team named them after the Latin words caesius (sky blue) and rubidus (dark red).

So, readers, do you prefer scientific or cultural Google logos? Do you want more Popeye or Edison? Journey underwater with Jules Verne or maybe gobble dots with Pac-Man, which arguably mixed science and culture?

While we're asking questions: Do you think Google should have a patent on creatively changing company logos? The US Patent Office thinks so. Let us know your thoughts here.

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[Editor's note: The original version of this story had both mentions of Bunsen and Bensen. The correct spelling is Bunsen.]

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