glyph 356: medicine, disease, cures, treatments ... James Lind Library . fair tests of medical treatments ... difficulty of acertainment of facts ... rational discourse, methods of achieving ... vitamin c ... British Navy ... evidence based medicine


A Treatise of the Scurvy, by James Lind, 1753

a discovery ignored for forty years, possibly even by its discoverer

"James Lind and scurvy: a revaluation", by Michael Bartholomew, in Journal for Maritime Research


It has long been recognized that James Lind's Treatise of the Scurvy (1753) did not decisively settle the questions of the causes and the treatment of scurvy, despite its presentation of experimental evidence that seemed to prove the efficacy of oranges and lemons in the cure of scurvied seamen. The paper has two aims. First, by means of a close reading of the Treatise as a whole, it seeks to establish Lind's overarching theory of the disease and to show what part diet, and in particular, fruit and vegetables, play in this theory. It is argued that Lind believed scurvy to be a disease of faulty digestion, and that this conception of the disorder entailed no insistence on the unique efficacy of fruit and vegetables. Secondly, Lind's own clinical practice in the years following the publication of the Treatise is described. It is argued that Lind was not himself persuaded by his own experiments and that throughout his life he adopted a full range of treatments for the disorder, including treatments that did not involve the prescription of fruit and vegetables to his patients.

The James Lind Library has been created to help people understand fair tests of treatments in health care by illustrating how fair tests have developed over the centuries.
November 16, 2006

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