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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Google Doodle pays tribute to Lucy Wills, an English haematologist

On account of Lucy Wills 131st birth anniversary today, Google honours her with a doodle. Lucy Wills is an English haematologist who helped in the identification of folic acid as a supplement for pregnant women through her research in the prevention of prenatal anaemia. Lucy Wills was born in 1888 and studied in the institutions in England that were at the forefront of educating women. They are:

  • One of the first British boarding schools to train female students in science and mathematics: Cheltenham College for Young Ladies
  • Cambridge University’s Newnham College
  • The first school in Britain to train female doctors: the London School of Medicine for Women

After she received her license, Lucy Wills travelled to Bombay. She did her research in Bombay on macrocytic anaemia, which caused the red blood cells to become larger than normal during pregnancy. It is a life-threatening form of anaemia and was observed in pregnant textile workers.

She identified the probable cause for this condition as poor nutrition. A very famous discovery of Wills is known as the “Wills factor”. She conducted research on monkeys, by feeding them the Marmite, made of yeast extract, as the monkey’s health improved the discovery came to be known as the “Wills factor”. 

After further research in later years, it was found to be the extract of folate, of which the synthetic form is folic acid. As a supplement for pregnant women around the world for prevention of prenatal anaemia and other medical conditions Folic acid, along with calcium, vitamins and iron, is recommended.

Lucy Wills spent her life researching on the health of pregnant women and travelling the world until her death on April 16, 1964.

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