google doodle dr wu face mask

Image: Google Doodle

Google Doodle honours surgical face mask inventor Dr Wu Lien-teh

“Wu’s efforts not only changed public health in China but that of the entire world”.

google doodle dr wu face mask

Image: Google Doodle

Google on Wednesday 10 March 2021 honoured Dr Wu Lien-teh – a Chinese-Malaysian epidemiologist who created a surgical face mask – on his 142nd birthday.

The surgical face mask invented by Dr Wu Lien-teh is widely believed to be the forerunner of the N95 mask we know and use today. Here’s what you need to know.

Dr Wu Lien-teh’s life and legacy

Medical background and achievements

Wu was the first of Chinese descent to study at Cambridge University and went on to become the vice director of the Army Medical College in 1908.

Two years later, a lethal epidemic broke out in northwestern China and Wu was tasked by the government to investigate. He concluded that the outbreak was a contagious pneumonic plague.

Google explains in order 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”.

In addition, “his leadership contributed greatly to the end of the pandemic by April 1911, within four months of being tasked with controlling its spread”.

Dr Wu Lien-teh: A medical trailblazer

He was a trailblazer in more ways than one. In 1915, Wu founded the Chinese Medical Association, the country’s largest and oldest non-governmental medical organisation.

As a devoted advocate of medical advancement, Wu was also the first Malayan nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1935, in Physiology or Medicine for his work to control the pneumonic plague.

“Wu’s efforts not only changed public health in China but that of the entire world”.

As it turns out, more than a century after the Manchurian Plague, Wu’s invention would be used to save countless lives in 2020 as well, during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Google Doodle 10 March 2021

His great-granddaughters, Dr. Shan Woo Liu, said Google honoured their family and Wu’s legacy by celebrating his birthday and shared her own experience as a medical professional battle the current pandemic:

“A year ago, I was terrified by how little we knew about the coronavirus. Even now, I struggle to imagine how my great-grandfather must have felt as he cared for patients who had contracted the plague. But I also feel closer to him than ever as I urge my patients to practice social distancing and to wear a mask – the very techniques he pioneered as he rescued China, and possibly the world, from a scourge. Wu Lien-teh remains as much of a hero now as he was then”.

Wu died in 1960 at the age of 80. 

Now read: Google Doodle 5 August – Wear a mask, save lives