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James Lind’s Treatise of the Scurvy (1753)
  1. M Bartholomew
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr Michael Bartholomew, History of Science Department, Arts Faculty, Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK;


Lind is revered as the first doctor to conduct systematic clinical trials of potential cures for scurvy—trials in which oranges and lemons came out as decisive winners. The following paper argues that our modern understanding of scurvy and vitamin C has hindered our understanding of Lind’s own conception of his work and of the place within it of his clinical trials. Lind conceived of scurvy not as a disease of dietary deficiency, but of faulty digestion. In the full context of his Treatise of the Scurvy, and of his own medical practice, the seeming decisiveness of the trials fades, to be replaced by a sense of Lind’s bafflement at the nature of the disease to which he had devoted his career.

  • James Lind
  • scurvy
  • vitamin C

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