You may be familiar with IMARC Research’s History of Clinical Research (HCR). We recently released an eBook about it that briefly describes all of the images that currently make up the timeline. If you have visited our office, you may have also been given a guided tour of one of our most renowned resources. Due to the overwhelmingly positive feedback we have received, we will be highlighting each time point with a series of blogs that we plan to release over the course of the 2014 calendar year.
Scurvy is a disease resulting from Vitamin C deficiency, which causes malaise, lethargy, skin spots and/or open wounds, bleeding from the mucous membranes, gum disease with tooth loss, jaundice, fever, neuropathy, and can even lead to death. The condition is treated by increasing a person’s Vitamin C intake by eating more oranges, lemons, or other fruits high in Vitamin C or by taking dietary supplements. While scurvy is easily treatable in modern times, it often proved to be fatal prior to the 18th/19th centuries. At this time and previously, sailing vessels were not equipped to keep perishable foods stored appropriately. Therefore, sailors and pirates who were on long voyages rarely had access to foods that would prevent it. As such, scurvy has even been described as more detrimental to naval fleets than attacks by the opposition. Hence, understanding and treating it became a focus of the medical community.
James Lind, a Scottish physician who entered the British navy as a surgeon’s mate became the primary surgeon aboard the HMS Salisbury. He is said to have conducted one of the first ever clinical trials when he undertook an experiment on the treatment of scurvy while patrolling the Bay of Biscay. Lind believed that scurvy was caused by putrefaction of the body and could be treated by acids. To test his theory, he divided up 12 sailors suffering from scurvy into 6 groups, then “treated” them with various concoctions: Cider, Sulfuric Acid, Vinegar, Seawater, Two Oranges and One Lemon, and Spicy Paste and Barley Water. Lind observed that the group who received Two Oranges and One Lemon was successful: one sailor returned to duty and the other was almost completely recovered from scurvy. The experiment was cut short after just 6 days when they ran out of fruit. He eventually shared his results in 1753 when he published A treatise of the scurvy, but it was largely ignored at the time.
Nicolette’ Capuano ‘s depiction of the story of James Lind shows the silhouette of an orange comprised of teeth, and is meant to symbolize how oranges and vitamin C can prevent scurvy and one of its prominent symptoms - tooth loss.
Photo Credit: Nicolette Capuano