Professor Nicholas Wald is a research physician and epidemiologist who specialises in preventive medicine. In the 1970s, Nicholas introduced the pioneering concept of screening pregnant women for congenital disorders, or birth defects — initially spina bifida and later Down’s syndrome. Nicholas is the inventor of the ‘triple test’ screening method for Down’s syndrome as well as other tests, such as the ‘Integrated test’.
He later revealed that spina bifida was caused by a lack of folic acid in the mother’s diet and that supplementing folic acid levels shortly before pregnancy could prevent most cases. He contributed to and compiled the evidence that showed that environmental tobacco smoke was a cause of lung cancer and ischaemic heart disease — research that led to the prohibition of smoking in enclosed public places.
With a colleague, Nicholas was the first to come up with the idea of the ‘polypill’ — combining more than one medicine into a single tablet to prevent most heart attacks and strokes.
Professor of Preventive Medicine, UCL Institute of Health Informatics, University College London (UCL)