February 22 is the 280th birthday of our first president, George Washington, as well as the day 1.18 billion Catholics (and even some Protestants) worldwide celebrate Ash Wednesday. For Google, the world’s most visited website, February 22 marks Heinrich Rudolf Hertz day.
Google often adds effects to their homepage logo to recognize the significance of the date or current events, which the site calls Doodles. Some memorable Doodles include the playable guitar google logo on the 96th birthday of the father of the electric guitar, Les Paul, the voting Doodle on the day of the Egyptian 2011 elections, the Doodle on the Royal Wedding Day of Kate and William, and the blackout Doodle on the day of the SOPA protest.
So who is Google’s February 22, 2012 Doodle honoree, Heinrich Hertz and why is he so important? He was a German physicist born in 1857 known for pioneering work on electromagnetic waves, becoming the first person to conclusively prove their existence. This discovery opened the door for wireless telegraph, radio and eventually television. Christian Science Monitor explains the story behind the squiggly, colorful line on Google’s homepage today:
“Like many of Google’s best doodles, this wave logo holds a double meaning. Sure, it winks at Hertz’s history in electromagnetism (we’ll explain all of that in a moment). But the undulating curves also hide a message, one you may never notice unless you take the time to look.
The waves form a repeating pattern: There’s a large blue curve, followed by a shallow red, shallow yellow, deep blue, skinny green, and one final red curve. Those lines match the general shape of Google’s traditional logo: Uppercase blue G, small Os, a lowercase g, a skinny green L, and a red E. It’s not the most difficult code to decipher, but Google’s doodle serves as a lovely metaphor for Hertz’s work.”
Hertz died young at 36 and despite global fame for his discoveries, CSM notes that Nazis tried to expunge Hertz’s name from history for while he identified as a Lutheran, his father grew up a Jew.
The first Google Doodle was on Thanksgiving 1998, and the Google Doodle really began to pick up pace in 2000. The American Conservative notes that Google has shown a fondness for Earth Day, which coincides with Good Friday this year, opening the door for perhaps even more gripes on which event Google decides to honor on the day:
“Other than the Gregorian New Year, there seems to be no observance promoted more by Google than Earth Day. Now in its fifth decade, the feast of environmental awareness always gets worldwide promotion on all of Google’s pages on April 22.
This year, Earth Day coincides with Good Friday. Thus while billions of Christians worldwide observe Christ’s passion, any who might visit Google’s page are shown an idyllic scene of waterfalls and panda bears.”
In the last 10 years George Washington, nor any other president, has been recognized in a Google Doodle. Perhaps 2013 will be the year for George who, as one of the nation’s most respected Presidents, may provide a touch of political civility and patriotism, which few would argue against in these times.