(p. C14) Scurvy, we know today, has a single and simple cause: lack of vitamin C. But between the years 1500 and 1800, when an estimated two million sailors died from the disease, it seemed to defy all logic.
. . .
The conventional medical narrative holds that the mystery was solved by James Lind’s announcement, in his “Treatise of the Scurvy” (1753), that it could be cured by drinking lemon juice. But in “Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery,” Jonathan Lamb, a professor at Vanderbilt University, shows that the story is nowhere near so simple and that scurvy was a much stranger condition than we imagine, with effects on the mind that neuroscience is only now beginning to elucidate. The result is a book that renders a familiar subject as exotic and uncanny as the tropical shores that confronted sailors in the grip of scurvy’s delirium.
James Lind was not the first person to recommend the lemon-juice cure. Contemporaries of Francis Drake had discovered it 150 years before, but the secret was lost and found again many times over the centuries. Some citrus juices were much more effective than others, and their efficacy was reduced considerably when they were preserved by boiling. The British admiralty ignored Lind’s researches, . . .
For the full review, see:
MIKE JAY. “The Disease of the Enlightenment.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., December 10, 2016): C14.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 9, 2016, and has the title “Scurvy: The Disease of the Enlightenment.”)
The book under review, is:
Lamb, Jonathan. Scurvy: The Disease of Discovery. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017.