Who is Dame Jean Macnamara? Google Doodle Celebrates Australian Doctor and Medical Scientist

Today's Google Doodle celebrates Australian doctor and medical scientist Dame Jean Macnamara on what would have been her 121st birthday.

Born in Victoria, Australia, on April 1, 1899, Macnamara was a teenager during the First World War, which urged her to want "to be of some use in the world."

In 1925, Dr. Macnamara graduated from medical school as a polio epidemic struck the city of Melbourne. She was a consultant and medical officer to the Poliomyelitis Committee of Victoria who focused on treating and researching the potentially fatal virus, which particularly affected children.

Then, in collaboration with future Nobel Prize winner Macfarlane Burnet, in 1931, Dr. Macnamara discovered that there was more than one strain of the poliovirus, a discovery that was a crucial step towards the development of an effective vaccine, which would be created nearly 25 years later.

Dr. Macnamara continued to work with patients who suffered from polio, especially children, and developed new methods of treatments and rehabilitation. Her research also played an important role in the introduction of myxomatosis to control rabbit plagues, which minimized environmental damage across Australia.

In 1935, Dr. Macnamara was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE). She died in 1968, aged 69.

Dr Jean Macnamara Google Doodle
Dr. Jean Macnamara, who developed new methods of treatments and rehabilitation for polio patients, is celebrated in today's Google Doodle. Google / Thomas Campi

The Google Doodle was drawn by Sydney-based artist Thomas Campi, who told Google that Macnamara is an important figure to him personally, for two main reasons: "Dame Macnamara was an important figure in the scientific field and history of Australia. As an Italian immigrant who recently became a citizen, I feel honored to celebrate such an important woman in this country.

"The second reason is more personal—my cousin has struggled with Polio all his life, so I feel a lot of appreciation and gratitude to people like Dame Jean Macnamara."

Campi drew inspiration for his Google Doodle from his research on the doctor: "First I read about Dame Macnamara—her life and her studies. I wanted to know not just who she was, but what she meant in the medical field.

"I then started to look for photographic references about her, but also that specific time, hospitals, medical equipment, clothing, hairstyle, and of course about people with polio.

"All these materials were an inspiration filtered through my final intention, which was giving hope to people and passion for research, with a hint of surrealism and Magritte-ish concept.

Campi wants people who see his Google Doodle to feel hopeful: "There's always hope—at least that is how I see life. Without pain, there is no happiness. It's a difficult balance sometimes, but it's worth it. The best way to describe it is through a Japanese philosophical concept "wabi-sabi," which means "perfection is in the imperfection."