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Scurvy

1877

Report of the Committee appointed by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, to enquire into the Causes of the Outbreak of Scurvy in the recent Arctic Expedition... London: for H.M.S.O. by Harrison and Sons, 1877.

This more than 500-page report of medical evidence, provisions and supplies, environmental conditions, and data on the health and activities of personnel, affords insight into the Admiralty's contemporary understanding of caring for personnel with respect to the cause of outbreaks of scurvy; adequacy of food, medicine, and medicinal comforts; and propriety of orders given pertaining to provision on the sledge parties aboard the Alert and Discovery, 1875-1877.

This era of intense polar exploration stimulated widespread international involvement and public interest in the health experiences of the expedition participants.

Reading the text today reveals the limited effectiveness of preventative measures more than a century and a quarter after the classic work of James Lind, the earlier recorded (1617) observations of John Woodall about the usefulness of "Lemmons, Limes, Tamarinds, Oranges and other choyce of good helpes...", and of Kramer, Physician to the Imperial Armies of Hungary (1720-1730), who recommended "green vegetables" and antiscorbutic juices.

[500-page report] Even in 1877, as this 500-page report of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty shows, measures to prevent outbreaks of scurvy were of limited effectiveness.