Har Gobind Khorana - Google honors the biochemist with a doodle ⋮ UpClosed
Har Gobind Khorana - Google honors the biochemist with a doodle
Upclosed staff | Jan 09, 2018

Har Gobind Khorana - Google honors the biochemist with a doodle

Google, on 9 January 2018, published a Google doodle on its homepage to celebrate the 96th birthday of celebrated biochemist Har Gobind Khorana.

Khorana, who won Nobel prize for his work in genetics in 1968, is hailed for constructing the first synthetic gene.

Early life and education

Har Gobind Khorana was born to Ganpat Rai Khorana and Krishna Devi Khorana in Raipur, British India. The city is now a part of Pakistan. Har Gobind was the youngest of the five siblings. His father taught his five children to read and write. 

After receiving a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Science at the Punjab University, Lahore, in 1945, the government of India awarded him a fellowship to study abroad. Khorana chose the University of Liverpool, UK, where he earned a Ph. D. in 1948. 

He then did post-doctorate work, first at the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, with Professor Vladimir Prelog, and then back in London at Cambridge University with George Wallace Kenner and Lord Alexander R. Todd. While working with Vladimir Prelog in Zurich, Khorana renewed his attitude and philosophy about science and life. In the following years, at Cambridge, he developed an interest in proteins and nucleic acids.


In 1952, Khorana accepted a job offer at the University of British Columbia, Canada from Dr. Gordon M. Shrum. At the university, he was able to start his own research group. The job allowed him to work independently on various research projects involving phosphate esters and nucleic acids. It was at the University of British Columbia where he kicked off his work on the chemical synthesis of ribotrinucleotides for protein synthesis.

His next job, in 1960, took him to Wisconsin, United States, where he worked at the Institute for Enzyme Research at the University of Wisconsin. He became a US citizen in 1966. While in Wisconsin, Khorana continued his work on nucleotide synthesis and cracking the genetic code. In 1968, Khorana, and Robert W. Holley and Marshall Warren Nirenberg, his colleagues at the University of Wisconsin, shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their interpretation of the genetic code and its function in protein synthesis. When the prize was announced, he was writing papers at a rented cottage with no telephone or radio, outside Madison. Eventually, he received the news from his wife, Esther, who drove to the cottage to share the news.

In 1970, Khorana became the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Biology and Chemistry at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, from where he retired in 2007.

Personal life

Khorana married Esther Elizabeth Sibler in 1952, whom he had met while working in Switzerland. They had two daughters: Julia Elizabeth (born 4 May 1953) and Emily Anne (born 18 October 1954), and a son, Dave Roy (born 26 July 1958). Khorana died of natural causes on 9 November 2011, at the age of 89.

Awards and accolades

  • Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine
  • Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research
  • Willard Gibbs Award
  • Louisa Gross Horwitz Prize
  • Gairdner Foundation International Award
  • American Chemical Society Award for Creative Work in Synthetic Organic Chemistry National Medal of Science, Dannie-Heineman-Preis
  • Padma Vibhushan in science & engineering, Padma Vibhushan


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