Presentation on theme: "Title: Subtitle Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail."— Presentation transcript:
Title: Subtitle Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail
Uses subtitles to chapter titles Clever—it appears Bown wrote it himself. Begins with a story, which—I believe—is an example of creative non- fiction. Bown is painting a picture of what it was like to be a sailor suffering from scurvy.
A conventional introductory paragraph, one that I or any student might write, making the case that scurvy was an important disease for many centuries and was not well understood. It makes the case that we ought to want to read more about it.
Implications for the James’ ship—”scarcely any [sailors] strong enough to sew [the dead] into their hammocks.” Vivid—if they can’t do that… James was a sailor of the Anson Voyage, which suffered a disastrous loss of life, losing 90% of its sailors. Loss of life appalled the public; loss of expensive ships worried the Admiralty.
A particular Sailor (James) Scurvy plagued 18 th Century seafaring countries “grey killer” “not uncommon” for only “three hundred sickly wretches” to return from a warship crew of seven hundred, a mortality rate of 57%. Vivid, concise description of scurvy. Tragic expedition (Anson) Millions lost to Scurvy during the Age of Sail “Occupational disease”
I’m not a fan of long quotes, that are a substitute for saying it clearly yourself, often leading to the feeling that they are being shoehorned into the essay. I try to reserve the use of quotes for purposes that I could not easily achieve myself. I couldn’t find anything in this quote that Harvie doesn’t say elsewhere in the introduction. For example, the quote tells us “Armies have been supposed to lose more of their men by sickness than by the sword.” Later, Harvie tells us that “[s]urvy killed more men and destroyed more naval and military operations than did the totality of enemy action.” The purpose of quotes 1.Credibility or Evidence 2.Give Credit or Honor
Harvie doesn’t give as explicit a set of symptoms of scurvy as Bown does— here is where he comes the closest. Harvie then emphasizes that scurvy was often thought to be a venereal disease, a confusion that highlights the lack of understanding of what scurvy was. To me, it says, “I will tell you some interesting stuff.”
bazillion of theories of the cause of scurvy bazillion of treatments for scurvy, nicely set up to prime the reader for the treatments chosen by Lind to test. Culminates with “Scurvy could not be cured because it could not be understood.” It was a medical mystery!
Mortality rate of voyage (v), where D is the number of deaths and S is the initial number of sailors. Mortality is a function of the number of miles traveled (M), whether it lost sight of land (L), and whether its mission was to blockade an enemy’s port (B) or explore unknown areas of the globe (E).
Haines, Robin and Ralph Shlomowitz “Explaining the Mortality Decline in the Eighteenth-Century British Slave Trade.” The Economic History Review 53(2): AER Reference Style
Mortality rate of voyage (v), where D is the number of deaths and S is the initial number of sailors. Mortality is a function of the number of miles traveled (M), whether it lost sight of land (L), and whether its mission was to blockade an enemy’s port (B) or explore unknown areas of the globe (E). Elegantly written paragraph. Scurvy didn’t rack up the number of deaths that bubonic plague did, but “during one brief period of time in the late eighteenth century, the hinges of history turned on the discovery of a cure for scurvy.”
Arguments supporting his thesis that curing scurvy was a hinge of history. Nice touches… calls it the “plague of the sea,” equating its importance to that of the bubonic plague. Chooses to make it a story of 3 men, James Lind, James Cook and Sir Gilbert Blane, leaving out Thomas Trotter. Echoes the subtitle—“At that time, despite several centuries of suffering, scurvy was still the greatest medical mystery of the age, a puzzle that continued to baffle mariners and medical theorists [italics added]” I like the phrase: “It was a long road to a simple solution,” yet Bown makes clear that it is often difficult to uncover simple solutions from the thicket of theories.
You should want to read this book! Solving the mystery of scurvy was as important as three other, more recognized achievements, the discovery of how to determine longitude at sea, the discovery of a way to protect people against smallpox and the invention of the steam engine. The final sentence once again echoes the subtitle.
This paragraph is very similar to one of Bown’s, but tells a few new things and focuses more on the Royal Navy. It tells us that ships could stay out to sea for about six weeks before their crews suffered from scurvy. And, it emphasizes the role of trade in forcing the Royal Navy to make longer voyages to protect merchant fleets. The distinction between physicians and ship surgeons will be important to the story but does it deserve this much space in the introduction? Yes—it is interesting and helps explain why it took nearly a half century for the Royal Navy to adopt Lind’s recommendation that sailors be given lemons to ward off scurvy. No—it isn’t crucial to attract readers at this point.
Elaborating on why the distinction between physicians and ships surgeons helps explain the lag in adopting the policy having sailors be given lemons.
Important paragraph– tells us that his will be a story about three surgeons, Lind, Blane and Trotter, who appears in Bown’s index but not his prologue. Harvie’s introduction places greater emphasis on the Admiralty’s policy change in 1795 than Bown’s, although I wonder whether Harvie shouldn’t have told us this date prior to talking about the lag of a half century between Lind’s experiment and the policy change. Third long quote!
Here, Harvie explains the title of his book and tells us that there was a further (or farther?) lag in the government ordering merchant fleet to give sailors limes / lemons to prevent scurvy. One wonders why governments needed to. Should Harvie have told us who gave the order? The British support for its West Indie colonies production of limes is interesting but once again one might wonder whether important enough for the introduction. Promises the reader that he will also talk about arctic expeditions.
Like Bown, he equates solving the mystery of scurvy to solving the longitude problem. But, for obvious reasons, I like Bown’s equating it also to the discovery of vaccines. Sparked the development of the soft drink industry, another interesting tidbit. Harvie’s introduction is not as well honed as Bown’s and not as elegantly written but gets the job done. Summary that emphasizes that the story will focus on how policies get developed and implemented.
The History of Scurvy & Vitamin C
Scurvy: How a Surgeon, a Mariner, and a Gentlemen Limeys: The Conquest of Scurvy The History of Scurvy & Vitamin CGhost Map Readers’ Stars Number of Reviews Sellers Rank 553,9461,411,3181,659,3761,687 Publication Date 7/14/200510/25/20054/29/198810/19/2006 In-PrintYesNoYes Price-Used (# Sellers) $3.33$4.12$28.83$5.05 Number of Sellers SOURCE: Amazon.com
Direction of Causation?
Fatigued / Lazy Scurvy / Sick “Sometimes scurvy’s effects were confused with its causes, as when fatigued sailors were told to exercise more—even dance on the dock every day—to resist the disease. ‘For if you once fall to laziness and sloth, then the scarby is ready to catch you by the bones and will shake out every tooth in your head’, warned the secretary of one sixteenth-century expedition.” Sonneman, Toby Lemon: A Global History. London, England: Reaktion Books. – Sonneman (2012, chp. 3) ?