María de los Ángeles Alvariño González: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González

Smithsonian/Google María de los Ángeles Alvariño González is being celebrated with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 105th birthday.

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González was a pioneering Spanish biologist and oceanographer who was an authority in plankton biology. She is being honored with a Google Doodle on October 3, 2021, on what would have been her 105th birthday. Ángeles Alvariño died on May 29, 2005, in La Jolla, California.

“Today’s Doodle celebrates the 105th birthday of Spanish-American professor and marine research biologist Dr. María de los Ángeles Alvariño González, who is widely regarded as one of the most important Spanish scientists of all time,” Google says on its Doodle blog. “In 1953, the British Council awarded Ángeles Alvariño a fellowship that resulted in her becoming the first woman to work as a scientist aboard a British research vessel.”

Google added, “Following several expeditions, she furthered her studies in the U.S., where she retired as one of the world’s most prestigious marine biologists in 1987.”

Here’s what you need to know about María de los Ángeles Alvariño González:


1. María de los Ángeles Alvariño González Was Born October 3, 1916 in Ferrol, Spain

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González google doodle

GoogleThe Google Doodle celebrating María de los Ángeles Alvariño González.

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González was born on October 3, 1916, in Serantes, a “small coastal town in northern Spain’s Galician coast” that is part of the city of Ferrol, Spain, according to the Google Doodle blog page. She was the daughter of Dr. Antonio Alvariño Grimaldos, who practiced medicine, and Maria del Carmen Gonzalez Diaz-Saavedra, according to “Notable Hispanic American Women: Book II” by Gale Research.

According to the biography, Ángeles Alvariño was interested in science from a young age and would read her father’s research books. The Smithsonian’s Ocean page wrote, “Alvariño grew up wanting to be a doctor like her father—an ambition that he discouraged.”

She attended Concepcion Arenal in Ferrol and graduated from the University of Santiago de Compostela in 1933. She studied diverse topics, saying during an interview, “Creativity and imagination are the basic ingredients for the scientist, as in the arts, because science is an art,” according to Notable Biographies.

She studied natural sciences at the Complutense University of Madrid, but her work there was interrupted by the Spanish Civil War. She married Eugenio Leira Manso in 1940 and they later had a daughter, Maria de los Angeles Leira Alvariño, who would become an architect in the U.S., according to a biography from the Council for Galician Culture. She completed her studies at the University of Madrid in 1941, after the Civil War.


2. Ángeles Alvariño Was a Professor & Worked as a Researcher, But Was Barred by Law From Boarding Spanish Navy Vessels

After finishing her studies in natural sciences in Madrid, she and her husband returned to her home coity of Ferrol where she became a professor, teaching biology, zoology, botany and geology, according to the Council for Galician Culture. Her family returned to Madrid in 1948 so she could work as a researcher with the. Department of Sea Fisheries, but her career was hampered by an outdated law.

According to the Smithsonian, “At the time, there was a law still on the books forbidding women from boarding Spanish navy vessels. If that sounds absurd and archaic, that’s because it was, even decades and decades ago. The law dated from the 1700s, when Charles III ruled Spain and most people didn’t have indoor plumbing. But the research vessels at the Spanish Institute of Oceanography were Navy ships. And the Spanish Institute of Oceanography, officially, did not admit women.”

According to the Google Doodle blog, “Ángeles Alvariño’s love of natural history began with her father’s library and deepened as she pursued coastline oceanography research. Although the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) only accepted men at the time, Ángeles Alvariño’s university work impressed the organization that they appointed her as a marine biologist in 1952.” She later moved to Britain to continue her research there.


3. Ángeles Alvariño Received a Fulbright Fellowship & Moved to the United States in 1956 to Study on Cape Cod in Massachusetts


Ángeles Alvariño, la gran oceanógrafa gallegaAngeles Alvariño, la mujer que da nombre al buque que lleva semanas en las costas de Tenerife buscando a las niñas, Anna y Olivia, nació en 1916 en un pueblo de Ferrol, Galicia.2021-06-17T15:16:03Z

Ángeles Alvariño received a Fulbright Fellowship that allowed her and her family to move to the United States to continue her research, according to Notable Biographies. She worked at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod in Massachusetts alongside fellow zooplankton researcher Dr. Mary Sears, who was the president of the U.S. Oceanographic Congress, according to the biography.

After her work there she moved on to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California at the University of San Diego, according to the Smithsonian. Kalila Morsink wrote in her article about Ángeles Alvariño on the museum’s website, “She figured out which species of zooplankton could act as indicators for the water temperature, and studied the distribution of plankton in the oceans as well as how they were affected by ocean currents, pollution and ship movements.”

Morsink added, “After leaving Scripps, she did research in Antarctica, taught in Mexico, and held positions at a multitude of institutions, from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to the University of San Diego. She didn’t retire until the age of 71, and even after retiring she continued to go on research voyages.”


4. María de los Ángeles Alvariño González Discovered 22 New Species of Marine Biology During Her Career & Published More Than 100 Books & Articles

According to the Google Doodle blog, “In addition to Ángeles Alvariño’s rigorous research, including the discovery of 22 new species of zooplankton and the publication of over 100 scientific papers, she held professorships in Brazil, the U.S., and Mexico.”

She has two species of plankton named after her, the Aidanosagitta alvarinoae, a chaetognath, and the Lizzia alvarinoae, a hydromedusa. The Smithsonian writes, “Over the course of her life Alvariño discovered 22 new species of plankton. Their names, as Latin names so often do, have stories behind them—ranging from the siphonophore Lensia eugenioi, namesake of Alvariño’s husband Eugenio, to the arrow-worm Pseudosagitta scrippsae, which shares its name with the Californian oceanographic institution where she worked for over a decade.”

The site adds, “As it’s frowned upon in the scientific world, Alvariño did not name a single one of the species she discovered after herself. It was up to later scientists to name Aidanosagitta alvarinoae and Lizzia alvarinoae in her honor.”


5. Ángeles Alvariño, Who Died in 2005, Is Honored as the Namesake of a Spanish Institute of Oceanography Vessel


Jornada de Puertas Abiertas en el Buque Oceanográfico Ángeles AlvariñoNoticia de RTVE en Cantabria con motivo de las Jornadas de Puertas Abiertas del Buque Oceanográfico Ángeles Alvariño del Instituto Español de Oceanografía (IEO) de Santander.2014-06-19T00:12:25Z

María de los Ángeles Alvariño González died on May 29, 2005, in La Jolla, California. According to the Smithsonian, “She had just finished drafting a book about a late-1700s oceanographic expedition when she died in 2005.”

In 2012, a Spanish Institute of Oceanography research vessel was launched that was named “Ángeles Alvariño” in her honor. The ship was launched from the port of Vigo, Spain, with her daughter taking part in the ceremony, according to the IEO.

Google added on its Doodle blog, ” Today, Ángeles Alvariño is the only Spanish scientist of 1,000 in the ‘Encyclopedia of World Scientists.’ Happy birthday, Dr. María de los Ángeles Alvariño González!”