HomeBad Ass AsiansGoogle Doodle celebrates creator of facemask

Google Doodle celebrates creator of facemask

By Louis Chan, AsAmNews National Correspondent

It’s a proud day for the family of Wu Lien-Teh, a Chinese Malaysian who in 1910 developed the first surgical facemask, the forerunner to the N95 mask and the facemasks being worn around the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

He is being honored with a Google Doodle which is being featured today in all 40 countries where Google has a presence.

About one year ago, Ling Woo Liu of the San Francisco Bay Area and Dr. Shan Woo Liu of Boston were notified by Google their great grandfather would be honored.

The two collaborated with the Google Doodle team to assure accurate information would accompany the Doodle. Google produces a blog post to accompany each Doodle.

“It’s important to have diverse heroes,” said Shan, an ER doctor on the frontlines, said to AsAmNews. “Basically it’s important to know where the mask came from. He was the first person to use masks to prevent the spread of disease. One year into the pandemic, it’s still important to get the message out that masks save lives.”

Wu Lien-Teh Family Photo

The two have been aware of their great grandfather’s story since an early age. He authored an autobiography, Plague Fighter, particularly chronicling his efforts to fight the pneumonic plague in 1910 and 1911. That autobiography has been passed down through the generations of their family.

“He also paid special attention to the power of photography. the photos of the mask mandate that he instilled in Manchuria were published in papers around the world. He understood the power of imagery,” said Ling to AsAmNews.

The two consider their great grandfather an unknown hero. His story has been told primarily in Malaysia, Singapore and China, but just recently in the United States.

Shan says her daughter became aware of her great great grandfather’s story as part of a class assignment. That inspired mom to write a children’s book about Wu Lien-Teh. She is currently negotiating with two publishers on a deal for the book tentatively titled Masked Hero, the Story of Wu Lien Teh.

Family photo

“Its been an exciting journey,” Shan said. “As we’ve seen a lot of children’s books, we want to see a more diverse representation of heroes. I want my children (4 & 7) to be more proud of being Asians and how we’re contributing to stopping the spread of disease.”

Today is the 142nd birthday of Wu Lien-Teh. He was born into a family of Chinese immigrants in 1879. He earned his MD from Cambridge University, the first student of Chinese descent to do so. He would later became vice director for China’s Imperial Army Medical College in 1908.

The government appointed him to investigate an epidemic which afflicted northwesterern China in 1910. He would invent the surgical mask to stop its spread.

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