Google has paid tribute to Australian medical doctor and polio scientist Dame Jean Macnamara with a doodle on what could have been her 121st birthday.
She was best known for her dedication toward children’s health and welfare.
Born on April 1, 1899, in Beechworth, Victoria, Macnamara realized that she must help people while growing up during World War I. She wanted “to be of some use in the world.”
Macnamara’s opportunity came when Melbourne was struck with a polio epidemic in 1925, the same year she graduated from medical school.
She worked as a medical officer to the Poliomyelitis Committee of Victoria for the next six years. Her focus turned to “treating and researching the potentially fatal virus, a particular risk for children,” according to the Google Doodle.
In 1935, she was honored as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
She worked with Nobel Prize winner Sir Macfarlane Burnet, who was an Australian virologist, to do more research on the disease, eventually discovering that there are multiple strains of polio.
Her findings were important when a polio vaccine was developed in 1955.
Macnamara’s dedication to researching the poliovirus paved the way for many new methods of treatment and rehabilitation for children.
According to the Australian National University’s Dictionary of Biography, her method of treatment included “splinting the paralyzed part of the body until the damaged nerve had recovered, and then re-educating the muscles.”
Macnamara treated patients until her death.
She died at the age of 69 from cardiovascular disease in 1968. The Australian Electoral Commission renamed the federal electoral division of Melbourne Ports to Macnamara in her honor in 2018.