Lucy Wills, an English hematologist, the pioneering medical researcher whose analysis of prenatal anemia changed the face of preventive prenatal care for women everywhere. With three college degrees (MA, LRCP, MBBS), she was a leading English hematologist. Wills was born in Sutton Coldfield near Birmingham on 10th May 1988. She had been very close to her father, and his unexpected death deeply affected her.
Here are the lesser-known facts about Lucy Wills:
Family’s Strong Interest In Scientific Matters
Father – Williams Leonard Wills was a science graduate of Owens College, Manchester.
Mother – Gertrude Annie Wills née Johnston was the only daughter with six brothers of a well-known Birmingham doctor Dr. James Johnston.
Great-grandfather – William Wills had been involved with the British Association for the advancement of science and wrote papers on meteorology and other scientific observations.
Three College Degrees In England (MA, LRCP, MBBS)
Lucy Wills studied in three institutions in England that were at the forefront of educating women:
Cheltenham College for Young Ladies—one of the first British boarding schools to train female students in science and mathematics.
Cambridge University’s Newnham College—earned her first honors in botany and geology.
London School of Medicine for Women—the first school in Britain to train female doctors.
Served First World War
Lucy Wills decided to go to South Africa after receiving a double first honors degree in botany and geology from Cambridge in 1911. In SA, she worked as a nurse during the First World War. After serving the entire war period, she came back to London to gain another medical degree in 1920.
Relation with India
After receiving her license, Wills traveled to Bombay. She conducted seminal work in India in the late 1920s and early 1930 on life-threatening macrocytic anemia which was observed in pregnant textile workers. Much of her pioneering research on anemia was done in Madras at the Victoria Caste and Gosha. Her observations led to her discovery of a nutritional factor (folic acid) — now celebrated as the “Wills Factor” — in yeast which both prevents and cures this disorder. Folic acid as a supplement — found in foods like leafy green vegetables, granary bread, brown rice, etc. — is now recommended to pregnant women all over over the world.
Wills Was A Traveler
Remembered for her wry sense of humor, Wills enjoyed mountain climbing, cross-country skiing, and rode a bicycle to work rather than driving in a car. She devoted much of her life to traveling the world and researching to ensure the health of mothers-to-be.
After returning from India, Lucy went back to the Royal Free from 1938 until her retirement in 1947. During the Second World War, she served as a full-time pathologist in the Emergency Medical Service. Her dedication towards serving people and save their life can be measured by the fact that she never married and enjoyed her life as an independent woman.
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