Julius Richard Petri’s 161st birthday celebrated with a mouldy doodle from Google

30 May 2013

The inventor of the Petri dish, Julius Richard Petri, has been honoured with an animated doodle on Google’s homepage worldwide, on what would have been his 161st birthday.

Petri, a German bacteriologist, is said to have come up with the circular dish while working as an assistant to Robert Koch, considered to be the founder of modern bacteriology.

Anyone who ever studied biology in their school days will be familiar with the shallow, lidded Petri dish, which are most often used to make agar plates used to culture cells and bacteria for microbiological study.

Today’s doodle shows six Petri dishes in the Google colours being inoculated one at a time. Cell cultures develop in each dish, resembling the letters of the Google logo.

By hovering over each dish, viewers can see what was used to grow these samples.

As well as creating the standard culture dish, Petri developed the technique of agar culture to purify or clone bacterial colonies derived from single cells. His seemingly simple invention made it possible for bacteriologists like Koch to identify the bacteria responsible for diseases.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.