Lind, James

SUBJECT AREA: Medical technology
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b. 1716 Edinburgh, Scotland
d. 13 July 1794 Gosport, England
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Scottish physician and naval surgeon whose studies and investigations led to significant improvements in the living conditions on board ships; the author of the first treatise on the nature and prevention of scurvy.
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Lind was registered in 1731 as an apprentice at the College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. By 1739 he was serving as a naval surgeon in the Mediterranean and during the ensuing decade he experienced conditions at sea off Guinea, the West Indies and in home waters. He returned to Edinburgh, taking his MD in 1748, and in 1750 was elected a Fellow of the College of Physicians of Edinburgh, becoming the Treasurer in 1757. In 1758 he was appointed Physician to the Naval Hospital at Haslar, Gosport, near Portsmouth, a post which he retained until his death.
He had been particularly struck by the devastating consequences of scurvy during Anson's circumnavigation of the globe in 1740. At least 75 per cent of the crews had been affected (though it should be borne in mind that a considerable number of them were pensioners and invalids when posted aboard). Coupled with his own experiences, this led to the publication of A Treatise on the Scurvy, in 1754. Demonstrating that this condition accounted for many more deaths than from all the engagements with the French and Spanish in the current wars, he made it clear that by appropriate measures of diet and hygiene the disease could be entirely eliminated.
Further editions of the treatise were published in 1757 and 1775, and the immense importance of his observations was immediately recognized. None the less, it was not until 1795 that an Admiralty order was issued on the supply of lime juice to ships. The efficacy of lime juice had been known for centuries, but it was Lind's observations that led to action, however tardy; that for economic reasons the relatively ineffective West Indian lime juice was supplied was in no way his responsibility. It is of interest that there is no evidence that Captain James Cook (1728–79) had any knowledge of Lind's work when arranging his own anti-scorbutic precautions in preparation for his historic first voyage.
Lind's other work included observations on typhus, the proper ventilation of ships at sea, and the distilation of fresh from salt water.
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Bibliography
1754, A Treatise on the Scurvy, Edinburgh.
1757, An Essay on the most effectual means of Preserving the Health of Seamen in the Royal Navy, Edinburgh.
1767, An Essay on Diseases incidental to Europeans in Hot Climates, Edinburgh.
Further Reading
L.Roddis, 1951, James Lind—Founder of Nautical Medicine. Records of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Records of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.
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Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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