Penangite doctor who invented precursor to N95 face mask honoured in Google Doodle

PETALING JAYA: Google on Wednesday (March 10) paid tribute to Chinese-Malaysian epidemiologist Dr Wu Lien-Teh, who created a surgical face covering widely believed to be the precursor of today's N95 mask.

To celebrate his achievements, Google dedicated its Doodle to Dr Wu on the doctor's 142nd birthday.Photo credit: Courtesy of Dr Shan Woo Liu and Ling Woo LiuPhoto credit: Courtesy of Dr Shan Woo Liu and Ling Woo Liu

Dr Wu (pic), who is a Penangite, went on to become the first student of Chinese descent to earn his MD from Cambridge University, according to Google in its tribute.

Following his doctoral studies, he accepted a position as the vice-director for China's Imperial Army Medical College in 1908.

When an unknown epidemic afflicted north-western China in 1920, the Chinese government appointed Dr Wu to investigate the disease, which he identified as the highly contagious pneumonic plague that spread from human to human through respiratory transmission, said Google.

"To combat the disease, Wu designed and produced a special surgical mask with cotton and gauze, adding several layers of cloth to filter inhalations.

"He advised people to wear his newly invented mask and worked with government officials to establish quarantine stations and hospitals, restrict travel, and apply progressive sterilisation techniques."

"His leadership contributed greatly to the end of the pandemic (known as the Manchurian plague) by April 1911, within four months of being tasked with controlling its spread.

"Later in 1915, Dr Wu founded the Chinese Medical Association, the country's largest and oldest non-governmental organisation.

"In 1935, he was the first Malaysian, and the first person of Chinese descent who got nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work to control the pneumonic plague," it said.

Described as a devoted advocate and practitioner of medical advancement by many, Dr Wu's efforts not only changed the public health inn China but that of the entire world, added Google.

"Happy birthday to the man behind the mask, Dr Wu Lien-Teh," posted Google in its tribute.

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