Google honoured Katsuko Saruhashi, a Japanese geochemist – who is known to have made some of the first measurements of carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in seawater and the atmosphere – in its doodle. Born in Tokyo on March 22, 1920, the day marks Saruhashi’s 98th birth anniversary.
After graduating from the Imperial Women’s College of Science in 1943, Saruhashi joined the Meteorological Research Institute and worked in its Geochemical Laboratory. In the year 1950, she began studying and researching the levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in seawater. During that time, the levels of CO2 were not considered important and to test the same, Saruhashi had developed her own methods of testing them. In 1957, she earned her doctorate in chemistry from the University of Tokyo, and also became the first woman to do so.
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The Japanese government, after the US conducted Bikini Atoll nuclear tests in 1954, had asked the Geochemical Laboratory to analyse and monitor radioactivity in seawater and rainfall. It was Saruhashi who found that it took a year and a half for the radioactivity to reach Japan in seawater. This was some of the first researchers which showed how the effects of fallout could spread across the world. Later during 1970-80s, she focussed her attention on acid rain and its effects.
Appreciating her contribution to science, Google wrote in its blog, “Today on her 98th birthday, we pay tribute to Dr Katsuko Saruhashi for her incredible contributions to science, and for inspiring young scientists everywhere to succeed.”
At the age of 87, she died due to pneumonia at her home in Tokyo on September 29, 2007.