Google honoured English haematologist Lucy Wills on May 10, Friday – her 131st birthday with a Doodle. Wills, who is the pioneering medical researcher in prenatal anaemia, changed the face of preventive prenatal care for women all around the world.
Born on this day in 1888, Lucy Wills attended the Cheltenham College for Young Ladies, one of the first British boarding schools to train female students in science and mathematics. In 1911, she earned first honours in botany and geology at Cambridge University’s Newnham College, another institution at the forefront of educating women, followed by the London School of Medicine for Women, the first school in Britain to train female doctors.
Wills travelled to India to investigate a severe form of life-threatening anaemia afflicting pregnant textile workers in Bombay. Suspecting that poor nutrition was the cause, she discovered what came to be known as the “Wills Factor” when a laboratory monkey’s health improved after being fed the British breakfast spread Marmite which is made of yeast extract. Later research proved the factor to be folic acid, which is now recommended to pregnant women all over the world.
Remembered for her wry sense of humor, Wills enjoyed mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, and rode a bicycle to work rather than driving in a car. She devoted much of her life to traveling the world and working to ensure the health of mothers-to-be.
Happy 131st birthday, Lucy Wills!