Journal Mobile

H Bastian
Journal Issue: 
Volume 38: Issue 1: 2008




Lucy Wills was one of a pioneering generation of women in medicine and medical research in England. After a double first honours degree in botany and geology from Cambridge in 1911, she travelled to South Africa, where she worked as  a  nurse  during  the  First  World  War. Wills  then  gained  a  medical  degree  in London in 1920. By the late 1920s she had developed an interest in haematology and began travelling to India to investigate pernicious anaemia in pregnancy. There she  identified  a  substance  often  called  ‘the  Wills’  factor’,  which  was  later recognised  as  folic  acid.  Wills  undertook  a  placebo  trial  of  routine  iron supplementation in pregnant women during the Second World War, hampered, but not stopped, by bombing. In retirement, she continued to study nutritional effects on health in South Africa and Fiji.