The discovery and loss of a cure for scurvy

Andrew Holding

Monday, November 14 2011 at 8:00PM

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Andrew Holding

What's the talk about?

Of all the slang names for the British, none is more iconic than 'Limey'. While the the term provokes majestic images of the Golden Age of Sail, scurvy cost countless sailors and seamen their lives. It was once not unheard of for nine out of every ten members of a ship's crew to have succumbed to scurvy by the time it returned to port. The results of James Lind's work on the HMS Salisbury in 1747, which led to a cure, without doubt saved innumerable lives. Yet in Cherry-Garrard's account of Robert Falcon Scott's 1911 expedition to the South Pole, he writes: "There was little scurvy in Nelson’s days; but the reason is not clear, since, according to modern research, lime-juice only helps to prevent it." So why did Lind's results get forgotten?

Dr Andrew N Holding is a post-doctoral research fellow working at the Medical Research Council's Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge. He founded 'Skeptics in the Pub' in Cambridge, which he continues to organise in his spare time. In addition he runs, ThinkOutreach which organises several science engagement activities including radio shows, lectures and will soon bring BrightClub in Cambridge.

Finally he has been a repeat guest on the The Naked Scientists Q&A radio show as Dr Andy answering the public's questions on science and has spoken at several outreach events both around Cambridge and worldwide. Has has also written for The Guardian's comment is free section and BlueSci magazine.