Thursday’s Google Doodle celebrates pioneering geochemist Katsuko Saruhashi on what would have been her 98th birthday.
Her groundbreaking research focused on acid rain, radioactivity spread through oceans, and CO2 levels in seawater.
As a female scientist working in the 1950s and 60s, Saruhashi broke many glass ceilings: She was the first woman to earn a PhD in chemistry from the University of Tokyo in 1957, the first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan in 1980, and the first woman to win the Miyake Prize for geochemistry in 1985, an award named after her mentor, Miyake Yasuo. To promote more women in the science, Saruhashi also started the Society of Japanese Women Scientists in 1958 with an mission to have more women contributing to sciences and world peace.
“There are many women who have the ability to become great scientists. I would like to see the day when women can contribute to science and technology on an equal footing with men,” she once said.
Geochemist Katsuko Saruhashi speaks during an interview on August 23, 1999 in Japan.
Sankei Archive/Getty Images
Saruhashi’s first major contribution to the field involved a methodology to determine CO2 levels in seawater. She was the first to determine carbonic acid levels based on temperature, pH Level, and chlorinity. Today, oceanographers call this “Saruhashi’s Table”.
Her second major area of research was to quantify nuclear pollution caused by testing in the 1950s. She measured the amount of radioactivity in seawater and found that fallout from U.S. atomic tests in the Marshall Islands in the 1950s reached Japan after about a year and a half. Her findings on how radioactivity spreads helped led to restrictions on oceanic nuclear experimentation in 1963.
In 1981, Saruhashi founded the Saruhashi Prize, an annual award to recognize the research contributions of female scientists.
She died in 2007 of pneumonia.
Google’s Doodle remembers Saruhashi with an illustration that depicts her with a clipboard in front of a turbulent blue sea.