In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re celebrating Dr. Lucy Wills, the hematologist who discovered our best friend–folate.
Dr. Wills was born in 1888 to a family with science in their blood. She attended Cheltenham Ladies’ College, Newnham College in Cambridge, and the London School of Medicine for Women, becoming legally qualified to practice medicine in May of 1920.
Rather than practice medicine, Lucy decided to become a medical researcher and teacher, specifically spending her time researching pregnancy. In 1928, she began researching a condition called macrocytic anemia, in which red blood cells are larger than normal.
During her research, Dr. Wills discovered poor pregnant women in Bombay were experiencing a different type of anemia. While vitamin B-12 had been used as a treatment for anemia in the past, it wasn’t working on these pregnant women. She concluded that there must have been another nutritional deficiency these women were experiencing rather than a pure vitamin B-12 deficiency. This unknown nutritional factor was referred to as the “Wills Factor.”
In an effort to alleviate macrocytic anemia in this women, Dr. Wills conducted clinical trials. She found this type of anemia could be both prevented and cured by yeast extracts.
In the 1940s, the “Wills Factor” was officially identified as folate.
We are so thankful for Dr. Wills and all women who help provide babies with the best start possible.