Deadly Diseases and Dr James Lind

If you are travelling to foreign parts on holiday or business you will need protection against deadly diseases. In the past, many people died from mystery illnesses, particularly sailors. More seamen died of deadly diseases than were killed in battle.

Dr James Lind was one of the first to study the causes of  diseases linked to the work of  sailors and came up with solutions. One of the worst diseases was scurvy. Strong men became weak and collapsed for no apparent reason. Soon afterwards, their teeth started  falling out and their skin began to blister and peel off. It was a slow painful death. Dr James Lind conducted an experiment about 1750 and found citrus fruit could prevent scurvy. However, it took over 40 years for the British Navy to accept his solution. Incredible, but true. Admirals did not trust doctors interfering in naval matters, so thousands of their men died.

In due course, Americans began calling British sailors ‘limeys’ as they took lime juice to prevent scurvy. Limes were used because they were more plentiful than lemons, until it was realized that lemons had more vitamin C, which is now recognized as crucial in everyone’s diet.

Dr Lind went on to make breakthrough discoveries in the cause and control of tropical illnesses. In 1768, he wrote a book on the subject, but once again the administrators in government were slow to act on his proposals. Today, we can give thanks to Dr James Lind. He was an amazing man ahead of his time helping us avoid the scourge of deadly diseases.

In recognition, The James Lind Alliance (JLA) is named in honour of his outstanding work as a clinician.  This organisation supports both patients and clinicians in confronting and identifying issues relating to uncertainty about the effects of various treatments. We need to support such work for it could save our own life.

Thanks to www.jameslindlibrary.org/images/17th_18th/lind_biog/lind-portrait.jpg for use of their photo

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