Fly high over the Peruvian desert and you'll see giant drawings on the ground. Some of them are straight lines, some are spirals and rectangles and trapezoids, and others are animals: whales, ducks, hummingbirds. The current Google Doodle celebrates the 115th birthday of Maria Reiche, a German mathematician known as the "Lady of the Lines", the scientist known for studying these so-called Nazca Lines.
Reiche was emigrated to Peru in 1932 to be a governess for children of the German consulate there. Shortly after, he found out about the drawings of giant lines in the desert, built by the ancient inhabitants of Nazcan, and he dedicated the rest of his life to studying them. (Due to the stable climate of the dry desert, the lines were well preserved). During the following half century, Reiche helped the Peruvian government to draw the lines, measuring more than 1,000 of them. She discovered that some of them were marked for the summer solstice, proposing that the lines were a kind of astronomical calendar.
And I was also dedicated to preserving them, fighting against the government when I wanted to dig channels through them. "I used to live on a flat roof or sleep in a tent in the desert," he recalled. "The locals either thought I was a spy or completely crazy." Once, a drunk threatened me with a stone, so I took out my sextant and signed it in. He ran away screaming, and the next day the local newspapers published the story of a crazy German spy and armed in their midst. "
We still do not fully understand the Nazca lines or know for sure what they mean, but today they are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Reiche became a Peruvian citizen in 1992, and died in 1998.