Text via Washington Post
Where the company’s homepage logo typically sits, the six letters of ”Google” become brightly colored rock layers that mark not just time, but specifically the 374th anniversary of Steno’s birth.
The Danish natural scientist — who was born “Niels Stensen” on Jan. 11, 1638 — is widely considered the father of geology.
Fittingly, today’s green-topped logo is rendered as rock strata with embedded fossils — reflecting twin ideas for which Steno is best known.
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.
For such research, Steno also became known as the father of stratigraphy.
As a young man, Steno set out to study medicine, leaving his native Copenhagen in his early 20s for the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. He then studied anatomy in Italy, where his research on shark teeth led him to question, among other things, how one solid object could be found inside another — such as with fossils. His ideas on “solid bodies within bodies” were published in 1669 in his seminal Prodromus dissertation.
Steno, however, would soon leave science behind. Born into a Lutheran family, he converted to Catholicism and was ordained as a priest in 1675 and became a titular bishop two years later.
Steno died in 1686, at age 48, in Schwerin, Germany.