James Lind (physician)

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James Lind FRSE (4 October 1716 in Edinburgh – 13 July 1794 in Gosport) was a Scottish physician. He was a pioneer of naval hygiene in the Royal Navy. By conducting the first ever clinical trial, [1] he developed the theory that citrus fruits cured scurvy. He argued for the health benefits of better ventilation aboard naval ships, the improved cleanliness of sailors' bodies, clothing and bedding, and below-deck fumigation with sulphur and arsenic. He also proposed that fresh water could be obtained by distilling sea water. His work advanced the practice of preventive medicine and improved nutrition.

Contents

Early life

Lind was born in Edinburgh in 1716. In 1731 he began his medical studies as an apprentice of George Bush Langlands,[2] a fellow of the Incorporation of Surgeons which preceded the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. In 1739, he entered the Navy as a surgeon's mate, serving in the Mediterranean, off the coast of West Africa and in the West Indies.[3] By 1747 he had become surgeon of HMS Salisbury in the Channel Fleet, and conducted his experiment on scurvy while that ship was patrolling the Bay of Biscay. Just after that patrol he left the Navy, wrote his MD thesis on venereal diseases, and was granted a license to practice in Edinburgh, Scotland.[2]

Legacy

Prevention and cure of scurvy

Scurvy is a disease now known to be caused by a deficiency of vitamin C, but in Lind's day, the concept of vitamins was unknown. Vitamin C is necessary for the maintenance of healthy connective tissue. In 1740 the catastrophic result of Anson's circumnavigation attracted much attention in Europe; out of 1900 men, 1400 had died, most of them allegedly from having contracted scurvy. According to Lind, scurvy caused more deaths in the British fleets than French and Spanish arms.[4]

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