Scottish Naval Surgeon
James Lind is associated with the elimination of scurvy, proving through an early clinical trial that citrus fruits were immediately effective in curing the symptoms of this disease, whereas other common remedies were not. Following this trial aboard the Salisbury in 1747, he published a definitive study of scurvy in 1753, A Treatise of the Scurvy. Containing an inquiry into the Nature, Causes and Cure of the Disease. Together with a Critical and Chronological View of what has been published on the subject.
James Lind was born in 1716 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father, for whom he was named, was a well-to-do merchant. Lind received training in both Latin and Greek as a youth and was apprenticed to a local physician at age 15. Little else is known of Lind's youth or early training until he joined the British Navy as a surgeon's mate in 1739.
Lind began his work in the navy at a time when long-distance sea voyages were increasingly common, with scurvy a severe problem. Scurvy is a deficiency disease, caused by a lack of vitamin C in the diet. Shipboard diets were notoriously poor, generally consisting of salt pork or beef, hard biscuit, and beer supplemented with minimal amounts of cheese, butter, and dried fish. Fruits and vegetables, which provide most vitamin C, could not be kept on board and therefore were only sporadically available at ports of call.
Just after Lind joined the navy, Lord Anson headed an around-the-world voyage (1740-1744) that saw 977 men out of an original 1,955 die of scurvy. A few years after that voyage, Lind was witness to two outbreaks of the disease while serving aboard the Salisbury. The second outbreak, in 1747, prompted Lind to formulate an experiment to discover what remedies might cure the disease the quickest. Selecting 12 men under his charge, each of whom was exhibiting similar symptoms of scurvy, Lind divided the men into six groups. Maintaining each group in conditions as similar as possible, he changed only their diets, administering a different daily remedy to each group. Those men who showed the most immediate response and recovery had been given oranges and lemons, thus demonstrating their antiscorbutic properties. The remedy that showed the second-most promise was hard cider. The remaining remedies, which included salt water, vinegar, elixir vitriol (sulfuric acid), and a compound remedy made up of garlic, mustard seed, and other botanicals, were all shown to be ineffective.
Lind served in the navy for nearly 10 years, leaving in 1748 to return to Edinburgh. He received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Edinburgh the same year and became a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Practicing medicine in Edinburgh for the next 10 years, Lind also found time to write two treatises. The first was his volume on scurvy, A Treatise of the Scurvy. Containing an inquiry into the Nature, Causes and Cure of the Disease. Together with a Critical and Chronological View of what has been published on the subject, published in 1753 and dedicated to Lord Anson. The second was a related work, entitled An Essay on Preserving the Health of Seamen in the Royal Navy, published in 1757. Both of these treatises would become popular, undergoing several reprints in his lifetime. A final treatise, Essay on Diseases Incidental to Europeans in Hot Climates, was completed while Lind served as physician at the Royal Naval Hospital at Haslar, a position he received in 1758. Lind remained at Haslar until his resignation in 1783. He died in 1794.
KRISTY WILSON BOWERS