NEW DELHI: Google on Friday honoured English haematologist Lucy Wills whose research on anaemia in pregnant women in Mumbai in 1928 led to the discovery of folic acid that helps prevent birth defects in babies.
She conducted seminal work in India in the late 1920s and early 1930s on macrocytic anaemia during pregnancy.
Her observations during the research on pregnant textile workers in Mumbai led to the discovery of a nutritional factor in yeast which both prevents and cures this disorder.
The extract, later identified as folic acid, improved the health of the monkeys during the research which was named the “Wills Factor”.
Macrocytic anaemia is characterised by enlarged red blood cells and is a life-threatening condition.
Wills’ discovery changed the preventive prenatal care for women globally.
Folic acid is a form of folate — a B-vitamin found naturally in dark green vegetables and citrus fruits.
Born near Birmingham, England, in 1888, “Wills attended three schools that benefited from a more progressive approach to education, the first being Cheltenham College for Young Ladies, a British boarding school training female students in science and mathematics”, reports CNET.
In 1915, she enrolled at the London School of Medicine for Women and became a legally qualified medical practitioner in 1920, earning bachelor degrees in medicine and science.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that all women of child-bearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.
For many years it was the “Wills Factor” until folic acid was named in 1941 when it was isolated from spinach.
Honoured by Google with a Doodle on her 131st birth anniversary, Wills died in April 1964.