Journeys Scurvy Herbals Vesalius

Scurvy

WOODALL, JOHN. The surgeon's mate, or military & domestique surgery... London: Printed by Rob. Young, for Nicholas Bourne, 1639.

John Woodall (1556-1643), a contemporary of Harvey, was a military surgeon in Lord Willoughby's regiment in 1591 and later first surgeon-general to the East India Company in 1612 and surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital from 1616 to 1643.

The first edition of The Surgeon's Mate was published in 1617. This 1639 volume contains the third edition as well as the Viaticum, being the Pathway to the Surgeon's Chest, intended Chiefly for the better curing of Wounds made by Gunshot; A Treatise... of that most fearefull and contagious Disease called the Plague and A Treatise of Gangrena... chiefly for the Amputation or Dismembering of any Member of the mortified part.

Woodall provides an extensive inventory and description of the medicines and their uses, of the instruments that the chest of the Surgeon's Mate should contain, and those that "one Barbours case...ought not be Wanting... if the Surgeon's Mate cannot trimme men." He devotes pages 160-176 to "the scurvy called in Latine Scorbutum." His therapeutic section considers treatments for a variety of symptoms and complications for associated conditions. His preface includes in part the remarkable statement:

... [W]e have in our owne country here many excellent remedies generally knowne, as namely, Scurvy-grasse, Horse-Reddish roots, Nasturtia Aquatica, Wormwood, Sorrell, and many other good meanes... to the cure of those which live at home...they also helpe some Sea-men returned from farre who by the only natural disposition of the fresh aire and amendment of diet, nature herselfe in effect doth the Cure without other helps." At sea, he states that experience shows that "the Lemmons, Limes, Tamarinds, Oranges, and other choice of good helps in the Indies... do farre exceed any that can be carried tither from England.

These observations are soundly in keeping with modern knowledge of the vitamin C content of the above remedies and of the labile nature of this vitamin when stored.

John Woodall, first surgeon-general to the East India Company, anticipated modern knowledge of the properties of vitamin C in regard to scurvy, a condition due to vitamin C deficiency and the scourge of sailors for generations. At sea, he states that experience show that "the Lemmons, Limes, Tamarinds, Oranges, and other choice of good helps in the Indies...do farre exceed any that can be carried tither from England."