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Google Doodle honours surgical face mask inventor, Lien-teh

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Dr. Wu Lien-teh Google Doodle inventor of face mask birthday

Google Doodle announced on Wednesday that it has set aside the day to celebrate a Chinese-Malaysian epidemiologist, Dr. Wu Lien-teh, who is widely considered as the pioneer of the surgical face mask.

The tech company is honouring the achievement of Lien-teh who is widely believed to be the forerunner of today’s N95 mask with its Doodle to Wu on the doctor’s 142nd birthday.

Born on this day in 1879, Lien-teh went on to become the first student of Chinese descent to earn his MD from Cambridge University and later became the vice director for China’s Imperial Army Medical College in 1908.

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When an unknown epidemic afflicted north-western China in 1910, the Chinese government appointed Wu to investigate the disease, which he identified as the highly contagious pneumonic plague that spread from human to human through respiratory transmission.

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 sterilization 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.

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It is widely believed to be the ancestor to today’s N95 mask, used to help keep people from contracting the coronavirus, according to Cnet.

In 1915, Wu founded the Chinese Medical Association, the country’s largest and oldest non-governmental medical organization. In 1935, he was the first Malaysian—and the first person of Chinese descent–nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work to control the pneumonic plague. A devoted advocate and practitioner of medical advancement, Wu’s efforts not only changed public health in China but that of the entire world.

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Wu would continue to practice medicine for the rest of his life. He died of a stroke on January 21 1960 at the age of 80 while in his home in Penang.

Lien-teh’s great-granddaughter, Dr Shan Woo Liu, said that the family his honoured by Google’s special Doodle dedication to the late doctor.

“We are honoured that Google is celebrating our great-grandfather’s birthday. Just over a century ago, he helped fight off a plague in China and developed techniques such as mask-wearing, that we still use today in our battle against Covid-19,” Dr. Liu said.

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