Hans Christian Gram’s 166th Birthday

Hans Christian Gram’s 166th Birthday

Hans Christian Gram’s 166th Birthday – Today’s Doodle, illustrated by Danish guest artist Mikkel Sommer, celebrates Danish microbiologist Hans Christian Gram. Born in Copenhagen on this day in 1853, Gram devised a staining technique that is now still used to identify and classify different types of bacteria.

After earning his M.D. from the University of Copenhagen in 1878, Gram traveled through Europe studying bacteriology and pharmacology. While working in the lab of German microbiologist Karl Friedländer, he noticed that treating a smear of bacteria with a crystal violet stain, followed by an iodine solution and an organic solvent, revealed differences in the structure and biochemical function of various samples.

Gram published his findings in a scholarly journal in 1884, and the terms “Gram-positive” and “Gram-negative” came to be coined. Gram-positive bacteria appear purple under a microscope, because their cell walls are so thick that the solvent cannot penetrate them, while Gram-negative bacteria have thinner cell walls that allow the solvent to wash away the stain. Pneumococci, which can cause many diseases, are classified as Gram-positive.

In his publication, Gram had notably included a modest disclaimer: “I have therefore published the method, although I am aware that as yet it is very defective and imperfect; but it is hoped that also in the hands of other investigators it will turn out to be useful.”

This simple test, however, proved widely applicable. Gram’s staining method continues to be used today, more than a century later.

Happy Birthday, Hans Christian Gram!



Early draft by Danish guest artist Mikkel Sommer


You can find more about Hans Christian Gram’s 166th Birthday on the official Google Doodle Page


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