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Scurvy: The Lost Cure

Episode 9

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Unless you're out at sea, in which case, you'll want to conserve resources and avoid the pirate's curse. Why? Listen to find out. 


Meet James 

James Lind was born October 4, 1716 in Edinburgh, Scotland to a wealthy merchant family. He would remain in Scotland for much of his early life, apprenticing under a local surgeon before joining the Royal Navy as a surgeon's mate in 1739. This took our young James across foreign lands to Guinea, the West Indies, and along the Mediterranean. Despite still not having any formal qualifications, James Lind was appointed a royal navy surgeon from 1738 until 1748. It was during these years that James Lind carried out his famous experiment with scurvy, marking the first formal clinical trial and the eventual publication A Treatise of Scurvy (primary source available below). After returning to land, he wrote his thesis on venereal diseases and obtained his formal MD from the University of Edinburgh. Throughout his career, James Lind advocated for the health of sailors well beyond scurvy to improve diet, prevent tropical disease, and invent new methods for purifying sea water. 

Dr. James Lind (1716 - 1794)

Clinical Vignette: Scurvy is Not Just A Thing of the Past 

A 19-year-old college freshman enters his PCP office during Thanksgiving break from a left arm razor blade laceration requiring sutures. As the emergency physician, you are concerned about his nutritional status as he appears malnourished. He states his diet is poor and it mainly consist of chocolate candy and so-call “energy drinks”. You explain to the patient that the wound will likely take longer to heal given his deficiency in Vitamin C. 

Further Reading

For more information on the history itself:

For more information on James Lind himself:​

For the original copy of James Lind's A Treatise of Scurvy:

For images on this page:

All images are free to use and share and not under copyright protection. 


Hosts: Wafik and Jessica Sedhom

Special Guests: Jacob Klein as Blackbeard 

Written and Produced by: Wafik and Jessica Sedhom

Edited by: Wafik Sedhom

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