Today's Google Doodle will hit close to home for any woman in STEM. That's because the Doodle honors Katsuko Saruhashi, a Japanese geochemist who served as a strong advocate for female scientists, and whose discoveries advanced the field of oceanography.
Head to the search engine's homepage today and you'll see Saruhashi holding a clipboard with artfully illustrated waves behind her. According to Google's Doodle Blog, the geochemist is best known for the eponymous Saruhashi's Table, a methodology for correctly measuring the concentration of carbonic acid in water using pH level, chlorinity, and temperature. She also found a way to measure the impact of radioactive activity across the ocean, leading to stricter rules about oceanic nuclear testing.
Saruhashi was born in Japan in 1920, at a time it was still difficult for women to make strides beyond the traditional roles society had carved out for them. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Japan, Jennifer Robertson emphasizes the role education played in gender-based discrimination: Men attended public universities, which were favored for their "nation building" mission, research opportunities, and financial support. Saruhashi and other women, meanwhile, went to private colleges, where the goal was to train them to become "good wives and mothers."
Saruhashi's experiences inspired her to pave new paths for other women in the sciences. She created the Saruhashi Prize, given to women in the natural sciences. Her own achievements led her to become the first woman awarded the Miyake Prize for geochemistry and first woman elected to the Science Council of Japan.
Still, statistics from recent years, which show low numbers of women in engineering, chemistry, and other areas of STEM indicate that there's still much work to be done. One of her most famous quotes, published on Google's Doodle Blog, still rings true today: “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 & technology on an equal footing with men.”
Saruhashi, who died in 2007, would have been 98 today.