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The Serendipitous Pleasures of Work-Related Googling

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

I spend a lot of time Googling while editing; it's an integral part of working with scientific material. To speed up the search, I use Paul Beverley's GoogleFetchUS() macro: I select the search text in Microsoft Word and fire up the macro with a keystroke combination (ALT-G in my case). The macro opens a Google page with the search results in a new tab of the default browser. Very convenient!

Editing life science material laden with genus and species names involves heavy Googling, and it was one such search that turned up this:

I had to smile!

Here's another:

Sometimes, the reward is interesting trivia. For example, here is a quiz question: how many seas are named after colors? Take a couple of minutes to ponder that.

The answer is four: the Black Sea, the Red Sea, the White Sea, and the Yellow Sea.

I hadn't heard of the White Sea, so I had to Google it when I came across it while editing a book.

And occasionally, Googling leads to pure gold, as when curiosity prompted me to look up the scientist Abhik Ghosh, a name that came up in a book I was editing. I found I had two things in common with him. One, we both grew up in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Two, we graduated in the same year (1987), but in different disciplines and from different institutions in different towns. Since 1996, Prof. Abhik Ghosh has taught chemistry at the Arctic University of Norway in Tromsø.

Prof. Ghosh has written an excellent essay on the late porphyrin pioneer, Dr. Martin Gouterman. The essay, published in March this year, is titled "An Exemplary Gay Scientist and Mentor: Martin Gouterman (1931–2020)." The first paragraph of the Introduction is the kernel of the essay:

Martin Gouterman, who died recently, was a legendary porphyrin scientist. He was also much more. A little-known fact—outside his immediate circle—was that he was gay. Even before the Stonewall uprising, he campaigned—at considerable personal risk—for Seattle's LGBTQ+ community. His life story also speaks to major topics in contemporary scientific culture, in particular mentoring and work–life balance. He was, in a word, a superlative mentor. He was also deeply involved in civic and cultural life, lending his voice and material support to the less fortunate, be they a homeless AIDS patient, a stateless Palestinian, or a struggling artist or musician. His students learned from his example and several became humanitarian giants in their own right, veering off from the narrow careerism that we so often equate with success. For the rest of us, Gouterman's example is a beacon as we set ourselves to the task of building a more humane and inclusive scientific enterprise.

Is it any wonder that I forgot about work and kept reading until the end? I'm sure you will too. It's a tour de force. Here is the essay:

And here is Abhik himself:

As Abhik Ghosh writes in his concluding remarks: "It should give us pause that LGBTQ+ professionals are still being robbed of their liberty and livelihoods in many parts of the world. The struggle for a more inclusive and humane world thus goes on."

True, the West has come a long way since the days of Alan Turing's and Frank Kameny's persecution, but there are many parts of the world, including Abhik's country of origin, that remain mired in the same age-old attitudes.

After an hour spent immersed in Abhik Ghosh's essay, I returned to my manuscript.


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