Google Doodle honours man behind Bunsen burner

31 Mar 2011

Internet search giant Google is marking what would have been the 200th birthday of Robert Bunsen, the scientist who developed the Bunsen burner, with an animated Google Doodle on its homepage.

The laboratory gas burner, which many former students may remember using during science experiments conducted at school, features a flame that turns red, orange and purple on Google’s homepage. Multicoloured chemicals also bubble away in lab containers, and a coffee pot percolates with steam rising from its spout.

The man who inspired this online tribute, Robert Wilhelm Eberhard Bunsen, was born in Gottingen, Germany, on 31 March 1811. Even though he is best known for developing the Bunsen burner – done so with Peter Desaga, his lab assistant – from 1854-1855, Bunsen also discovered the elements caesium and rubidium and developed the Bunsen cell battery.

The Bunsen burner’s purpose was to study the colour spectrum of heated elements. Bunsen came up with the idea of the burner while new lab facilities were being built at Heidelberg University that would be connected to the city’s gas supply.

Bunsen never sought a patent on his invention.