From the 15th to the mid-19th centuries, scurvy caused more deaths at sea than storms, shipwrecks, combat and all other diseases combined, according to Bown (Sightseers and Scholars). In this intriguing book, Bown tells how the preventative and cure-a diet that included fresh fruits and vegetables, which were rarely carried on sailing ships-was finally identified. For years, the mysterious illness was treated with oil of vitriol, bloodletting, sea water, wort of malt and, occasionally, lemon juice. Even after James Lind, a surgeon's mate in Britain's Royal Navy, showed in 1747 that citrus was the effective remedy, his treatment was not taken seriously, because he couldn't explain why it worked. On three voyages, from 1768 to 1781, Captain James Cook tested a wide array of antiscorbutics as preventatives, including fresh vegetables and citrus juice, but evidence of the effectiveness of the fresh produce was inconclusive, and the Royal Navy persisted in relying on the other, worthless, remedies. Scurvy continued to decimate ships' crews, and Bown speculates that failure to arrest the disease had global repercussions and may have been the reason for Britain's defeat in the American Revolution. Finally, in 1795, Gilbert Blaine, a gentleman physician, persuaded the admiralty to issue daily rations of lemon juice on all Royal Navy ships; although the active compound, ascorbic acid, was not isolated until more than a century later, this simple procedure kept the British sailors healthy and enabled them to defeat Napoleon at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. Bown tells the story well, and he presents a vivid picture of life aboard ship during the age of sail-brutal captains; dangerous work; rotting food; filthy, overcrowded living quarters; and the ultimate horror, scurvy. Illus. not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The plague of eighteenth-century seafarers was scurvy, the consequence of the lack of vitamin C in the everyday diet. A condition in which body tissues break down, scurvy can kill quickly yet can be reversed even more quickly by drinking lemon or orange juice or eating fresh green vegetables. Some earlier mariners had learned that lemon juice cured scurvy, but no one in authority realized it could prevent it, too. It took the successive labors, over the course of 60 years, of surgeon James Lind, explorer James Cook, and aristocrat (and also physician) Gilbert Blane to force acknowledgment that scurvy was preventable. Bown's fluent history shows that medicine of the time wasn't yet experimental and analytic, or even materialistic, but still sought spiritual or essential reasons for disease. After Blane's triumph, scurvy-free British seamen destroyed Napoleon's numerically superior but scurvy-ridden navy, whereas 30 years earlier, Britain's sick sailors were overmatched by France's much larger (though also sick) forces, putting the kibosh on Britain's retention of its 13 American colonies. Excellent medical--and naval--history. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 2 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 2 months ago by Aspasia Luster
This is one of those books that I read several years ago and realized I needed to read it again. I went out of my way to track it down and purchase it. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Angela C.
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 8 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 10 months ago by adventure Bill
I love history of medicine. Like the belief in Galan' s "four body humors", believed for over 2000 years, because as in the Bible, the oldest knowledge is considered the best. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Kindle Customer
A fascinating story of the generally disregarded reality of The Age of Sail. I'm now more mindnful of my own nutrition.Published 14 months ago by G. Garcia
Bown does a solid job of discussing the problem of scurvy during the Age of Sail and of addressing the challenges and obstacles ship's surgeons and physicians had in combating it. Read morePublished 17 months ago by doc peterson