New Delhi: 

Google is celebrating English haematologist Lucy Wills with a doodle to commemorate her 131st birth anniversary today. The pioneering medical researcher’s analysis of prenatal anaemia changed the face of preventive prenatal care for women all over 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, followed by the London School of Medicine for Women, the first school in Britain to train female doctors.

She travelled to India to investigate a severe form of life-threatening anaemia afflicting pregnant textile workers in Mumbai, then Bombay.

In experiments, she attempted to prevent anaemia by adding yeast extract to the diets of rats and then monkeys through the consumption of the popular breakfast spread Marmite.

The extract, which was later identified as folic acid, improved the health of the monkeys – a discovery named the “Wills Factor”.

Folic acid is now recommended for pregnant women, with other important nutrients such as iron and B12, for the prenatal prevention of anaemia and other conditions.

She spent the remainder of her life travelling and researching the impact nutrition has on pregnancy health, before her death on 16 April, 1964.

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