James Lind



There were two famous Scots physicians called James Lind in the eighteenth century, one of whom was twenty years younger than the other. The younger man wrote his doctoral thesis on malaria in Bengal and was physician to the Royal Household, while the elder, more historically important, had a lifelong interest in scurvy and was chief physician at the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, overlooking Southampton Water.

James Lind was born in Edinburgh in 1716 - the son of a merchant.

At age 15 he was apprenticed to a physician and in 1739 passed the examination for surgeon's mate in the Royal Navy.

Until 1748 he was in action at sea off Guinea and the West Indies, In 1747, while serving in the Channel on H.M.S. Salisbury, he carried out his experiments on scurvy, the symptoms of which included loose teeth, bleeding gums and hemorrhages. 'Scurvy began to rage after being a month or six weeks at sea… the water on board… was uncommonly sweet and good [and] provisions such as could afford no suspicion.. yet, at the expiration of ten weeks, we brought into Plymouth 80 men, out of a complement of 350, more or less afflicted with the diseases'.

Although the importance of Lind's findings on scurvy were recognized soon after the publication of A Treatise on Scurvy, it was not until more than 40 years later that an official Admiralty order was issued on the supply of lemon juice to ships. The effect of the Admiralty Order was substantial; almost immediately scurvy disappeared from the Fleets and Naval hospitals, and the numbers of sick sailors sent to the hospitals was halved.

A year after his famous experiment he retired from the Navy, obtained a medical degree, and entered private practice. Ten years later he became physician at the Royal Naval Hospital at Portsmouth.

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