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Har Khorana, a 20th century titan of science who was awarded the Nobel after showing how DNA formed a blueprint for life, was given a 21st century honor today: the daily Google Doodle.

Khorana, who died in 2011, would have turned 96 today.

His Nobel in Physiology or Medicine came in 1968, while he was at the University of Wisconsin, and he was jointly awarded with colleagues working independently, Robert Holley and Marshall Nirenberg. Together, their work showed how DNA’s code leads to the construction of RNA, which in turn allowed the construction of proteins to carry out functions.

Khorana’s biggest contribution to the work was isolating codons, the three-letter sequences of RNA that are the blueprints for amino acids at the fundamental building block of life.

Just a few years after winning the Nobel, Khorana also constructed the first synthetic gene.

Khorana came from humble beginnings. He was born in 1922 in a tiny village of about 100 people in what is modern Pakistan. His family and its five children were virtually the only literate people in the town. The “class” where he and other local children got their first education met under a tree, according to accounts. Through scholarships, Khorana eventually earned his doctorate in organic chemistry at the age of 26 – and then began his international academic career, conducting research in Canada, England, and Switzerland before settling in the United States. He became a U.S. citizen in 1966, just two years before his Nobel. He joined the faculty of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1970, where he would remain until his retirement in 2007.

The University of Liverpool, which was one of his academic stops, issued a statement about their pride in their notable alumnus. 

“Fantastic to see our alumnus Prof Har Gobind Khorana, the pioneering biochemist and Nobel Laureate, being honored today by Google Doodles on what would have been his 96th birthday,” the school tweeted this morning.

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