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Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail Paperback – July 14, 2005
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Top Customer Reviews
Seth J. Frantzman
Brown does a fantastic job of outlining the history of scurvy and the quest for a cure in a very interesting and readable fashion. Outlining the course of scurvy at sea during the voyages of Anson and Cook, he is able to put a cost on scurvy. He details how rigid social structures prevented remedies from being taken seriously and reluctance by the Admiralty to invest in its men in terms of hygiene and diet permitted this affliction to rage for much longer than it should have. It is shocking to read how the medical professionals of the day diagnosed patients despite the evidence. When it appears that they are on the very verge of a cure, they seem to loose touch with logic and regress to useless remedies.
Brown tells the story of scurvy very well.
It amazes me when reading books about medical issues just how slow it was for people who were seemingly educated to grasp basic concepts. (hindsight is twenty-twenty!) Scurvy was figured out years (almost a decade?) before the advice was used to alleviate it. In the between time, the sailors and captains used things that bordered on witch doctoring! (Many captains had a medical chest full of medication vials that were numbered. If they were out of number 5, they would apparently sometimes add vial 2 and 3 to make 5. Makes my blood run cold.)
Scurvy, as outlined in this book, is a horrible malady, it does things that don't seem possible or logical. I knew that people could lose their teeth, but had no idea that their broken bones could break again! This is a medical lesson as well as a history lesson and a darn good story, all wound into one!
This book shows the various cures that were tried, both those that worked and those that were pointless. The book discusses different voyages where the sailors suffered from scurvy. The book also discusses what the doctors researching this tried and found out. The sheer number of years from finding and verifying a cure to that cure being used as a universal cure will astonish you.
If you are a medical history buff, this book is for you. If you find medical language, even in layman's terms to be boring, you are better off picking a different book.
Stubbornly, based on pride, doctors will stick to their quack theories even when they know better. This applies to Dr Pringle, who clung to his Malt Wort cure until his death, and b/c of his high position forced all others, including the Royal Navy, to accept this as the one and only atmosphere.
Reader, you will enjoy this mystery of history as much as I did!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was really bored and checked this out from the library. I was expecting nothing. Scurvy?
It was really a fascinating look into how the England became Great Britain... Read more
Students of history are taught not to approach historical topics with anachronistic attitudes however reading scurvy challenges one often to put aside what you know about... Read morePublished 11 months ago by space traveler
This blog post has a different format and style of writing than my regular posts- this an academic book review my class was assigned for the Golden Age of Piracy course that I'm... Read morePublished 11 months ago by Aspasia Luster
This started out really interesting and I learned a lot about scurvy and the British Navy of the era, both of which were brutal and hard to survive. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
It was a bit confusing. I so wanted it to have a story line. Nope. Not fiction. But the concept was phenomenal! Read morePublished 19 months ago by adventure Bill