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Nicolas Steno Google Logo Honors Geologist's 374th Birthday

Nicolas Steno

The Huffington Post   First Posted: 01/11/12 10:55 AM ET Updated: 01/11/12 11:06 AM ET

Google's homepage logo on January 11 was transformed to celebrate the 374th birthday of Nicolas Steno (1638 - 1686), a pioneer in the fields of geology and botany.

This Google doodle features a stylized animation of the earth's layers, with green plant life and animals sitting atop sediment embedded with fossils.

The Washington Post explains how the logo reflects Steno‘s most famous contributions to science:

The strata illustrate Steno's "principle of original horizonality," which essentially says that rock layers form horizontally -- and only appear differently if later disturbances cause the deviation. And the fossils in the lower stratified rock help illustrate Steno's "law of superposition," which -- simply put -- says that the oldest rock layers are sequentially deposited on the bottom unless otherwise disturbed.

Born in Denmark, Steno began his professional career studying human anatomy. But it was his examination of shark teeth that led him to question science as the world knew it. He noticed that the teeth resembled shapes he had seen in rocks, and he concluded that those shapes were the remains of ancient animals. According to the University of Vermont's profile of Steno, his discovery marks the birth of modern geology.

"His observations contributed to the fundamental observations that bind together the study of geology, which over time provided the framework that would allow fellow scientists to use fossil evidence to examine how life evolved on Earth," writes UVM.

In 1667, Steno converted to Catholicism and moved on from scientific pursuits to religious study. "He was ordained as a priest in 1675," according to the University of California's Museum of Palentology. "In 1677, he became a titular bishop, and spent the rest of his life ministering to the minority Roman Catholic populations in northern Germany, Denmark, and Norway."

Take a look at the doodle (below) and click through the slideshow to see our favorite doodles ever.

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On January 18, 2012, Google joined Wikipedia, Reddit and thousands of other sites for a content blackout in protest of proposed Congressional legislation calling for strict enforcement of U.S. copyright law online. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) drew the ire of web users who feared these bills would lead to unchecked web censorship. As a result of the massive protest, key Congressmen who had previously supported the bills reversed their positions; SOPA and PIPA were tabled indefinitely.

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