Google Honors Creativity of Alexander Calder

By Ed Silverstein July 25, 2011

Google admires innovation and creativity. It’s no accident that the U.S. company chose to honor the American artist Alexander Calder on Friday – which was his 113th birthday.

Calder’s work appeared as a homepage “doodle” on the Google site. Calder was perhaps best known for inventing the mobile, Google Software Engineer Jered Wierzbicki explained in a blog post.

Calder attended Stevens Institute of Technology and graduated from the school in 1919 with an engineering degree. Calder worked as both a hydraulics engineer and automotive engineer – before switching to art.

“In the fall of 1931, a significant turning point in Calder's artistic career occurred when he created his first truly kinetic sculpture and gave form to an entirely new type of art,” according to a biography from the Calder Foundation. “The first of these objects moved by systems of cranks and motors, and were dubbed ‘mobiles’ by Marcel Duchamp – in French mobile refers to both ‘motion’ and ‘motive.’ Calder soon abandoned the mechanical aspects of these works when he realized he could fashion mobiles that would undulate on their own with the air's currents.”

What is interesting as well is that Friday’s doodle was Google’s first doodle made by using just HTML5 canvas, Wierzbicki said.

“It runs a physics simulation on the mobile’s geometry, and then does realtime 3D rendering with vector graphics. Only recently have browsers advanced to the point where this is possible,” Wierzbicki said, adding that a modern browser was recommended for viewing Friday’s doodle.

“I like to think Calder would have appreciated today’s doodle, since we’re setting up shapes and abstractions and letting them act on their own,” Wierzbicki added in the blog post.

“Calder took ordinary materials at hand – wire, scraps of sheet metal – and made them into brilliant forms, letting space and motion do the rest. As an engineer, I work with abstractions, too, so this really struck me,” Wierzbicki said.

“It’s an interesting example of what browsers are capable of today,” SlashGear adds in its comments on the doodle by Google honoring Calder. “Considering Google is pushing for Chrome OS on its Chromebooks as the next generation of consumer computers, we’re curious to see what slightly more functional uses of HTML5 Canvas might be in the search giant’s labs.”

There have been many noteworthy doodles by Google honoring creative innovators. For example, in June, Google celebrated the birthday of electric guitar inventor Les Paul, when it displayed an interactive play-along doodle on its search page, TechZone360 said.

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Ed Silverstein is a TechZone360 contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell

TechZone360 Contributor

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