Google is honoring English hematologist Lucy Wills with a Google Doodle on what would have been her 131st birthday. The scientist is responsible for the creation of a prenatal vitamin that helps prevent congenital disabilities.
A path to a medical degree
Wills was born in England in 1888 and completed a degree in botany and geology at Cambridge University in 1911. In 1914, she volunteered as a nurse in Cape Town when the first World War began.
It was that experience that led Wills to apply for a medical degree from the London School of Medicine for Women. There she became a legally qualified medical practitioner in 1920 and earned bachelor degrees in both medicine and science.
Then, in 1928, Wills headed to India to study a severe form of anemia that was affecting pregnant women. Identifying poor nutrition as the reason for this debilitating anemia, Wills began undertaking clinical trials where she attempted to prevent anemia.
The discovery of folic acid
She did this by adding yeast extract to the diets of rat and then monkey test subjects by feeding them the breakfast spread Marmite. This discovery was the first step toward the creation of folic acid. The extract was dubbed the Wills Factor for many years.
Wills died on 16 April, 1964 after having spent her years studying the effect of nutrition on health. Today, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all women of child-bearing age take 400 micrograms of folic acid daily.