"dread disease of scurvy"
James Lind treating scurvy on board HMS Salisbury in 1747
Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C
. It was particularly common amongst sailors until Scottish surgeon James Lind proved that citrus fruit could combat it in 1753. Vasco da Gama and Ferdinand Magellan both lost more than two thirds of their crews to the disease. Scurvy causes blackened skin, ulcers, rictus, loss of teeth, respiratory problems, and abnormal gum growths that quickly rot. Oddly, only primates and guinea pigs are susceptible, as other animals can synthesize Vitamin C. The introduction of limes to sailors’ diets in the Royal Navy is believed to be the derivation of “limey”, the American pejorative name for a British person.