Google Doodle honors Pap smear inventor Georgios Papanikolaou

Henrietta Strickland
May 15, 2019

If you've looked anything up today, you might have wondered why Google's logo features a sketch of a scientist. The results of the study, however, were undeniable: Papanikolaou was able to detect a significant number of early cancers with his method, and in 1952, the first mass screening program launched in Tennessee (773 of 10,000 women were diagnosed with cancer thanks to that test).

In 1911 he joined the Oceanographic Exploration Team of the Prince of Monaco before immigrating to the USA with his wife, Andromachi Mavroyenis, in 1913.

Dr Papanikolaou recorded his belief that uterine cancer cells could be detected in vaginal smears as early as 1928, but was initially met with incredulity and scepticism.

Known for putting in grueling hours, Papanikolaou died in 1962 of a sudden heart attack at the age of 78.

The featured man, Georgios Papanikolaou, is the inventor of the Pap test, which is used to diagnose cervical cancer and precancerous conditions that can be treated.

Born on the Greek island of Euboea on this day in 1883, Papanikolaou grew up the son of a doctor.

Initially he was interested in music and humanities, but his father encouraged him to follow in his footsteps and become a doctor. In 1913, he immigrated to the USA with his wife, Andromachi Mavroyenis.

Georgios started studying medicine at the age of 15, graduating from the University of Athens in 1904. The couple initially struggled to make a living-Georgios sold carpets and played violin in restaurants and Mary sewed buttons for $5 a week-until he was recruited as a researcher at Cornell University.

"There, Georgios worked alongside his wife who served as a technician and sometimes test subject".

The couple's breakthrough arrived after they asked a group of friends to participate in a study for their research looking at how cells in the vagina and uterus change during the menstrual cycle; a test which involved undergoing a Pap smear.

The Papanikolaou smear, or Pap smear, is still widely used today as a low-priced way of detecting cervical cancer in women.

You might not know Georgios Papanikolaou's name, but you certainly know his most famous creation.

Dr Papanikolaou's work earned him two Nobel Prize nominations, and he received the prestigious Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1950. He wished to develop the Papanicolaou Cancer Research Institute at the University of Miami, which he did not accomplish.

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