Remember Lucy Wills who conducted seminal work in India
With the innovative doodle which is seen on the internet, Google is celebrating Lucy Will’s 131st Birthday.
Lucy Wills, MA (Cantab), LRCP, MB BS (10 May 1888 – 16 April 1964) was a leading English Haematologist. She conducted seminal work in India in the late 1920s and early 1930s on macrocytic anaemia of pregnancy. Her observations led to her discovery of a nutritional factor in yeast which both prevents and cures this disorder.
Macrocytic anaemia is characterised by enlarged red blood cells and is life-threatening. Poor pregnant women in the tropics with inadequate diets are particularly susceptible. The nutritional factor identified by Lucy Wills (the ‘Wills Factor’) was subsequently shown to be folate, the naturally occurring form of folic acid.
Lucy Wills was in India between 1928 and 1933, mostly based at the Haffkine Institute in Bombay. In the summer of 1929, from April to October, she moved her work to the Pasteur Institute of India in Coonoor (where Sir Robert McCarrison was Director of Nutrition Research), and in early 1931 she was working at the Caste and Gosha Hospital in Madras. In each of the summers of 1930, 1931 and 1932 she returned to England for a few months and continued her work in the pathology laboratories at the Royal Free.
Lucy Wills was well introduced in India, probably through Dr Margaret Balfour and Sir Robert McCarrison. In Bombay she was on dining terms with the governors and their wives at Government House – Sir Leslie Wilson in 1928 and Sir Frederick Sykes in 1929.
In 1929 she visited Mysore and wrote to her brother that ‘I was most fortunate to be under the wing of Sir Charles Todhunter, who is a very important person there’. Todhunter had been Governor of Madras and in 1929 was the secretary to the Maharajah of Mysore.