James Lind (1716-94) of Edinburgh and the treatment of scurvy
- Department of Child Health, University of Bristol, Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB
- Professor Peter Dunn.
The Lind family moved to Edinburgh from Ayrshire in the 16th century. James Lind (senior) married Margaret Smellum in 1707 and they had a daughter, Joan, nine years before their son James was born on 4 October 1716.
James Lind received his schooling in Edinburgh before being apprenticed at the age of 15 in 1731 to George Langlands, a member of the Incorporation of Surgeons. After completing his training in 1739, he set off south and joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon’s mate. The next nine years were spent voyaging in the Mediterranean, off West Africa, and in the West Indies. In those days ships were cold, damp, and unwholesome, while the food consisted of putrid beef, rancid pork, mouldy biscuit and foul water. During these years, Lind carefully recorded all his observations, as his later writings show. By 1747 he had been promoted surgeon to HMS Salisbury, and it was during her cruise in the English Channel that year that there was a severe outbreak of scurvy and he was able to carry out his classic experiments on its treatment. The following year Lind left the Navy and returned to Edinburgh where he acquired an MD by thesis and a license to practise in the city. This he did for the next 10 years. In 1750 he was elected a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh) and seven years later became its treasurer. He also became a member of the Philosophical and Medical Society of Edinburgh.
In 1753 Lind published his classic Treatise on …