BANGKOK — Thailand’s first female doctor was born 122 years ago today, and her legacy is celebrated by a Google Doodle unique to the kingdom.
The gimmick honors Margaret Lin Xavier, or Lin Srivisarnvaja, who made history as the first woman who provided modern medical services in Thailand, known at the time as Siam. She was an expert on obstetrics and gynecology.
Lin was born in 1898 in Bangkok to a family with Portuguese descent – her family kept the Western name alongside their Thai names. Her father, Phraya Phipat Kosa, or Celestino Xavier, was an accomplished diplomat in the reigns of Rama V and VI.
Lin was sent to school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Penang, and later at Clark’s Commercial College in London when her father moved there for work. She earned a medical degree at the London School of Medicine for Women, before working at the Royal Free Hospital.
She returned to Siam in 1924 and began working at the Thai Red Cross at Chulalongkorn Hospital as an obstetrician when she was 26. Lin also opened the “Unagan” clinic on Si Phraya Road with her sister, Chan Xavier, a pharmacist who was trained in England.
Women nationwide flocked to Lin’s treatment in obstetrics and gynecology. She would treat many for free of charge as many could not afford care, including sex workers. Lin also breastfed her children herself while working, which was unusual at the time since high-status women of the time employed wet nurses.
Lin married Col. Phraya Srivisarnvaja, or Thianliang Hoontrakun on Aug. 15, 1926, an alumnus of Dulwich College and Oxford. Lin died at 34 on Dec. 6, 1932 due to encephalitis and influenza. Thianliang never remarried.
As of December 2019, 45 percent of 61,302 doctors in Thailand are women, according to the Medical Council of Thailand.
Google Doodles are local, temporary changes to Google’s search engine landing page to celebrate holidays, anniversaries and other events.
On Dec. 4 Google published a Doodle celebrating a horticulturalist who pioneered commercial orchid cultivation in Thailand.