Who was James Lind?

James Lind is famous because of a clinical trial he did more than 250 years ago.

Lind was born in 1716, in Edinburgh, and after completing his schooling he became apprenticed to a physician in 1731. He then worked as a Surgeon’s Mate in the British Navy for 8 years and was promoted to Surgeon in 1747.

At that time, scurvy was a grievous disease and common among sailors making long voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. As the cause of scurvy was unknown, many different treatments were proposed. James Lind compared six of these treatments – oranges and lemons, cider, vinegar, sulphuric acid, salt water, and garlic – in a clinical trial that began on 20 May 1747. He chose patients with similar symptoms and clinical signs (which include bleeding gums, sunken eyes, and loss of teeth), who received the same basic diet and were nursed in the same part of the ship. Only the sailors given oranges and lemons recovered.

The use of citrus fruits to prevent and cure scurvy disease was not accepted by either the Royal College of Physicians of London or the Admiralty during Lind’s life.

However, after Lind’s death in 1794, the British Navy recognized that making available the juice of citrus fruits to sailors would protect them from a potentially deadly disease.

Due to his exemplary investigation, James Lind is often considered as the “Father of Naval Medicine”. To celebrate the day that James Lind started his famous trial to find an effective treatment for scurvy, International Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world on or near the 20 May each year.