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Interesting facts about Plague Fighter Dr. Wu Lien-teh



Dr. Wu Lien teh 伍連德 伍连德

Search engine giant Google celebrates the 142nd birthday of Chinese-Malaysian doctor Wu Lien-teh (伍連德; 伍连德), inventor of the surgical mask ‘N95’ that helped stop the Manchurian plague of 1911, with a Google Doodle on March 10, 2021.

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Google Doodle on Dr. Wu Lien-teh’s 142nd Birthday

Here is a look at the life and work of Wu Lien-teh (伍連德; 伍连德).


  • Other names: Goh Lean Tuck, Ng Leen Tuck
  • Birthdate: 10 March 1879
  • Birthplace: Penang, Straits Settlements
  • Died on: 21 January 1960 (aged 80)
  • Death place: Penang, Federation of Malaya
  • Citizenship: Citizen of United Kingdom And Colonies (CUKC)
  • Education:
    • Penang Free School
    • Emmanuel College, Cambridge
  • Known as: Physician, researcher, painter
  • Known for: Work on the Manchurian Plague of 1910–11
  • Notable work: Plague Fighter: The Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician

Read More: Wu Lien-teh: Google Doodle celebrates Chinese-Malaysian physician’s 142nd birthday, who widely considered for his work on Manchurian plague

40 Interesting facts about Wu Lien-teh

  1. Wu Lien-teh or Wu Liande (伍連德; 伍连德), otherwise called Goh Lean Tuck and Ng Leen Tuck in Minnan and Cantonese literal interpretation respectively, was a Malayan doctor eminent for his work in public health and especially, the Manchurian plague of 1910–11.
  1. He was referred to worldwide as the “Plague Fighter” for the groundbreaking work he did in Manchuria.
  1. Initially named Ngoh Lean Tuck, Wu changed his name to ‘Wu Lien-teh’ when he traveled to China in 1908.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh was a Malayan-born Chinese physician and the first medical student of Chinese plunge to learn at the University of Cambridge. He was likewise the first Malayan nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1935.
  1. Wu Lien-teh (伍連德) learned at the premier Penang Free School, and in the wake of winning the renowned Queen’s Scholarship, was selected at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1896.
  1. At 17, Wu Lien-teh went to England to study at Emmanuel College, at the University of Cambridge. There, he was awarded the esteemed degree of M.D. from Cambridge University. Wu was the first Chinese to graduate in medicine from Cambridge.
  1. He did a year of postgraduate research on bacteriology at the School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, under Sir Ronald Ross (Nobel Laureate for Physiology in 1902). He at that point continued to the Pasteur Institute, Paris, to research on malaria and tetanus.
  1. Getting back to Malaya in 1903, Wu was welcomed into local high society. He was welcome to give public lectures in Singapore, and there, he formed a friendship with Dr. Lim Boon Keng and Song Ong Siang.
  1. In Singapore, Wu Lien-teh met Ruth Shu-chiung Huang, daughter of Wong Nai Siong, a Confucian researcher who helped Fuzhou Christians settle in Sarawak.
  1. Wu married Ruth Shu-chiung Huang, whose sister was the wife of Dr. Lim Boon Keng.
  1. Wu Lien-teh joined the Institute for Medical Research in Kuala Lumpur to explore beriberi, a disease that distressed a huge number of Chinese tin miners.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh established the Anti-Opium Association in Penang, and in March 1906, he coordinated a nationwide anti-opium conference in Ipoh, which was gone to by around 3,000 participants.
  1. In mid-1907, Wu was charged and fined in court for ownership of an ounce (around 28 g) of opium tincture in his clinic. It isn’t certain whether the case had anything to do with his anti-opium campaign, yet Wu felt unpleasant and embarrassed.
  1. At this juncture, Wu got an invitation to serve in China. A few months sooner, a group of youthful Chinese sent by the Qing government on an abroad study tour had halted at Penang.
  1. Wu Lien-teh (伍連德) met one of them, a Cornell University graduate named Saoke Alfred Sze, who was later to become China’s Councilor of Foreign Affairs.
  1. In May 1908, Wu Lien-teh cruised with his wife, first to Shanghai, then to Tianjin. There, he was acquainted with the Manchu Chief of the Army Services who, incredibly impressed by Wu, made him vice director of the Imperial Army College in Tianjin.
  1. Similarly, as Dr. Wu Lien-teh was settling into a daily schedule in Tianjin, he was called upon to manage a health emergency. In the autumn of 1910, reports arrived at Beijing that a deadly disease had broken out in Fuchiatien (Fujiandian), the Chinese area of Harbin in northern Manchuria.
  1. In the fall of 1910, the destructive epidemic broke out in the northeastern region of China. The first fatality was accounted for in the border town of Manzhouli, and the plague immediately spread to Harbin. Within 4 months, it had claimed more than 60,000 lives.
  1. On 19 December 1910, the Chinese government instructed Dr. Wu Lien-teh to set out toward the plague-influenced territories. Wu confronted trouble in leading postmortems on plague victims, as the technique was generally unacceptable in China at that point.
  1. Serendipitously, Dr. Wu Lien-teh learned on the third day of his appearance that the Japanese spouse of a Chinese had fallen victim to the plague the day before. Wu was subsequently ready to play out a postmortem, the first-ever done in China.
  1. Having found out via the post-mortem examination that the plague was spreading via air, Dr. Wu Lien-teh created surgical masks he had found being used in the West into more significant masks with layers of gauze and cotton to filter the air.
  1. The mask was broadly produced, with Dr. Wu Lien-teh regulating the production and distribution of 60,000 masks in a later pandemic, and it was highlighted in many press pictures. It is believed that the N95 mask is the descendant of Wu’s design.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh started a quarantine, provided for buildings to be disinfected, and the old plague hospital to be burned down and supplanted. The measure that Wu is best associated with was in asking for imperial sanction to cremate plague victims.
  1. Wu Lien-teh led the International Plague Conference in Mukden (Shenyang) in April 1911, a historic event went to by researchers from the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, Austria-Hungary, the Netherlands, Russia, Mexico, and China. The conference occurred more than three weeks and highlighted demonstrations and experiments.
  1. Wu Lien-teh (伍連德; 伍连德) later introduced a plague research paper at the International Congress of Medicine, London in August 1911 which was published in The Lancet in the same month.
  1. In 1912, Dr. Wu Lien-teh became the first director of the Manchurian Plague Service. He was a founder member and first president of the Chinese Medical Association (1916–1920).
  1. In 1929, Wu Lien-teh was designated a trustee of the ‘Nanyang Club’ in Penang by Cheah Cheang Lim, alongside Wu Lai Hsi, Robert Lim Kho Seng, and Lim Chong Eang. The ‘Nanyang Club’, an old house in Peiping, China, given helpful convenience to abroad Chinese companions.
  1. In the 1930s, Dr. Wu Lien-teh became the first director of the National Quarantine Service.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh dedicated a large number of his efforts to building up hospitals and medical colleges and established the Chinese Medical Society.
  1. In 1931, after the Japanese attacked the northeastern regions of China, he left for Shanghai, where he set up the National Quarantine System. He got back to Malaya with his family in 1937, following the beginning of the anti-Japanese war in China.
  1. Around 1939, Wu moved back to Malaya and kept on functioning as a general practitioner in Ipoh.
  1. Wu Lien-teh gathered donations to begin the Perak Library (presently the Tun Razak Library) in Ipoh, a free-lending public library, and donated to Shanghai City Library and the University of Hong Kong.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh was a mandarin of the second rank and sat on advisory committees for the League of Nations. He was given awards by the Czar of Russia and the President of France and was awarded honorary degrees by Johns Hopkins University, Peking University, the University of Hong Kong, and the University of Tokyo.
  1. Wu Lien-teh (伍連德; 伍连德) practiced medicine until his demise at 80 years old. He had purchased a new house in Penang for his retirement and had just finished his 667-page autobiography, Plague Fighter, the Autobiography of a Modern Chinese Physician.
  1. On 21 January 1960, he died of a stroke while in his home in Penang at 81 years old.
  1. A road named after Wu can be found in Ipoh Garden South, a middle-class residential area in Ipoh. In Penang, a private street named Taman Wu Lien Teh is situated close to the Penang Free School. In that school, his alma mater, a house has been named after him. There is a Dr. Wu Lien-teh Society, Penang.
  1. The Wu Lien-teh Collection, which contains 20,000 books, was given by Wu to the Nanyang University, which later became part of the National University of Singapore.
  1. In 2015, the Wu Lien-Teh Institute opened at Harbin Medical University. In 2019, The Lancet launched an annual Wakley-Wu Lien Teh Prize out of appreciation for Wu and the publication’s founding editor, Thomas Wakley.
  1. Dr. Wu Lien-teh is viewed as the first person to modernize China’s medical services and medical education. In Harbin Medical University, bronze statues of him honor his contributions to public health, preventive medicine, and medical education.
  1. On March 10, 2021, Google honored Dr. Wu Lien-teh’s 142nd Birthday with a Google Doodle.
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