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James Lind, a United Kingdom’s Royal Navy surgeon, is considered the “Father of Clinical Trials.” Each year, on May 20, we celebrate Clinical Trials Day and Lind’s contribution to the foundation of clinical trials.

In 1747, Lind’s shipmates suffered from what is now recognized as Scurvy, a condition caused by a lack of vitamin C. At the time, there were no proven treatments and little understanding of what would help the disease. Frequent outbreaks on ships tormented crews during long sea voyages. Lind was aware of different treatments that had been hypothesized such as malt and sauerkraut, diluted sulphuric acid, eating ship rats, and consuming citrus fruits. He began treating 12 men aboard his ship suffering from scurvy symptoms. He divided the men into six pairs and treated them with remedies previous writers had suggested:

  1. A quart of cider a day
  2. Drops of sulphuric acid
  3. Half a pint of sea-water a day,
  4. A mix of garlic, mustard seed, horse-radish, balsam of Peru and gum myrrh
  5. Two spoonfuls of vinegar
  6. Two oranges and one lemon daily

By the end of the week, those on citrus fruits had become so well that they were able to help treat the other patients. Lind’s findings were published in the “Treatise of the Scurvy” appearing in 1753. It took many more years for lemon juice to be officially issued to sailors, but Dr. Lind is commemorated today as being a hero for the discovery and for setting clinical trials in motion for the betterment of medical science.

Learn more about James Lind in the BBC article, “James Lind: The man who helped cure scurvy with lemons.”