Google Doodle today featured the late Chinese-Malaysian epidemiologist Dr Wu Lien-teh, who created the surgical face covering widely considered to be the precursor to the N95 mask.
Google Doodle paid tribute to Wu on what would have been his 142nd birthday.
It said Wu became the vice-director for China’s Imperial Army Medical College in 1908, following his doctoral studies.
“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,” it said.
Wu then advised people to wear the mask and worked with government officials to establish quarantine stations and hospitals, restrict travel and apply progressive sterilisation techniques.
This contributed greatly to bringing about the end of the pandemic, also known as the Manchurian plague, which was brought under control by April 1911, within four months of Wu’s appointment.
Google also said that Wu, who was a Penangite, was the first student of Chinese descent to earn his MD from Cambridge University.
“In 1915, Wu founded the Chinese Medical Association, the country’s largest and oldest non-governmental medical organisation. 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. Happy birthday to the man behind the mask, Wu Lien-teh!” it said.