ABSTRACT

If the seventeenth century is known as the Age of the Scientific Revolution, the eighteenth marks the Age of Discovery. Ships of many nations travelled across the world for commerce, colonization, and piracy. They were fitted with cannons to protect them against their enemies and to allow them to attack rich foreign ships laden with treasure. The cannons required a large complement of men in addition to the sailing crew. Ships would often be at sea for months at a time without touching land, and provisioning for a very large crew was difficult. Hard tack, porridge, fresh water, and occasional bits of stew formed the basic ration for most seamen. The result of this diet was scurvy and a horrible death. Finding a cure for scurvy became an urgent effort of those who were 60committed to the ascendency of the new science and the mechanical body. Here is an account of the course of the disease–its natural history: