In science, ideas are kind of like seeds. If you’re lucky, a seed will grow and expand the boundaries of human knowledge. But it’s hard to know which seeds will take root. Take any invention or modern innovation and in its history, you’ll find decades or even centuries of odd and obscure research that led to its creation…

From Fig. 1 by University of California: This is the story of how organic chemist, marine biologist, and Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor Osamu Shimomura pursued the answer to a simple question: Why do Aequorea victoria jellyfish glow? And how his work with this jellyfish protein, built upon by biochemist Roger Y. Tsien and neurobiologist Martin Chalfie, led to the development of a revolutionary protein-tracking tool: The green flourescent protein (GFP).

For their work in the 1960s, 80s, 90s, and 2000s, these scientists would go on to win the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Like the microscope, the x-ray, and the MRI before it, GFP has transformed medical research.

Related reading: The Brainbow and Nautilus’ Why do jellyfish glow?

Previously from Fig. 1 by University of California: Renegades of Bike Culture, Why do carrots taste sweeter in the winter? and How Much Sugar Are You Really Eating? Plus: More biology and jellyfish videos.

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