This year’s Valentine’s Day doodle on the Google homepage is working a double shift as both a marker for the lovey-dovey day that’s in it and a celebration of the 154th anniversary of the birth of George Ferris.
The interactive doodle depicts a fairground scene consisting of two Ferris wheels, a roller-coaster, a carousel and a drop zone making up the search giant’s letters.
Press the inviting big red heart button and the big wheels spin rapidly, generating an unlikely animal couple who fall in love at first sight. A final image then shows you how these amorous animals fared on their first date. A frog and a blackbird go on a romantic boat ride, a rabbit impresses a dolphin with fishy magic tricks, a horse and a tiger enjoy a moonlit view, and a monkey and an elephant disco the night away.
There seems to be an endless supply of animal pairings, some proving Paula Abdul’s theory that opposites attract while others have less successful dates, like the bear that took the octopus to the sushi restaurant.
Perhaps Google’s illustration is a celebration of online matchmaking? Either way, the two Ferris wheels are no coincidence, as today is also the 154th anniversary of the birth of George Ferris, the American engineer who invented the fairground staple for the 1893 Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition.
Ferris’ creation was his answer to a challenge by the expositions’ hosts to create a structure to rival the Eiffel Tower, which was the centrepiece of the Paris International Exposition of 1889. ‘Original, daring and unique’ was the brief, and so Ferris came up with the idea of a huge rotating wheel from which visitors could view the entire exhibition.
Allaying safety concerns, Ferris designed the big wheel with 36 cars fitted with 40 revolving chairs, each with the capacity to accommodate up to 60 people. It carried about 38,000 passengers over each day of the fair and took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions. By the time it was demolished in 1906, the first Ferris wheel had carried 2.5m passengers.