A YOUNG girl born in Leigh at the turn of the last century went on to become so revered by the people of Japan -- they named a day after their "Mother of the Sea".

And it was all in the name of seaweed.

Dr Kathleen Mary Drew-Baker was born in Leigh in 1901 and was far ahead of her time when she won a major scholarship to study botany at Manchester University.

She was one of the first women to graduate with a first class honours degree in 1922 and went on to research the biology of seaweeds.

In Japan in the 1940s her work helped to save the seaweed industry.

Seaweed farming was an important part of the Japanese farmers' diets and after suffering years of unreliable harvests they were facing destitution.

It was Dr Drew who came to the rescue when she analysed the life cycle of the edible seaweed known as Nori.

The Japanese scientists built on her work and were able to develop artificial seeding techniques. Modern laver farming in Japan was established and mass production became possible.

Dr Drew died in 1957, never knowing the enormous contribution she had made. But the people were so grateful to her that they built a memorial inside the Sumiyoshi Park overlooking the Ariake Sea to honour her. The memorial refers to her as "The Mother of the Sea".

And every April 14, they celebrate the 'Drew Festival'. In 2001, her children John Rendle Baker, aged 62, and her daughter Kathleen Frances Biggs, aged 60, were guests at the shrine to mark the 100th anniversary of Dr Drew's birth.

Her remarkable story was uncovered by The Museum of Science in Manchester while staff were researching material for a permanent new gallery on Manchester Science due to open in Spring 2004.

Dr Drew will be one of the Manchester scientists both past and present to be featured in the new collection.

Val Smith, from the museum, said: "The Manchester Science Gallery will tell the inspiring story of Manchester scientists, past and present and how they have shaped the modern world through scientific discovery. Drew will take her place in a time-line display incorporating collection items and exciting multimedia techniques."

And next week, Dr Drew's son John will travel to Manchester where he will present the microscope that she used in her research work, to the museum.

Dr Drew was also a remarkable woman in other fields of science. In 1925 she was awarded a Commonwealth fellowship for two years to work at the University of Berkeley in America.

In 1928 she married Henry Wright Baker, Professor of mechanical engineering at UMIST. Her employment was terminated due to her marriage but she continued her research and was instrumental in founding the British Phycologiccal Society and was its first president.