Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lind, James (1716-1794)

LIND, JAMES, M.D. (1716–1794), physician, born in Scotland in 1716, was on 22 Dec. 1731 registered as an apprentice to George Langlands, a fellow of the College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. He became a surgeon in the navy, was at Minorca under Admiral Haddock in 1739, and served for some time on the coast of Guinea as well as in the West Indies, Mediterranean, and Channel. His longest cruise was in the Salisbury, from 10 Aug. to 28 Oct. 1746 (Treatise on Scurvy, 2nd ed. p. 5), under the command of the Hon. George Edgcumbe. He graduated M.D. in the university of Edinburgh, 3 May 1748, his thesis being ‘De Morbis Venereis Localibus,’ and was elected a fellow of the College of Physicians of Edinburgh 1 May 1750 (extract from record). From 1748 to 1758 he resided in Edinburgh, and in 1754 published ‘A Treatise on the Scurvy.’ No physician conversant with scurvy at sea had before written on the subject, and the accounts extant were by seamen or by medical writers who had had scanty opportunities of observation. The importance of the subject was shown by the fact that in the naval war preceding the publication more men died of scurvy than were killed in all the engagements with the French and Spanish fleets. On board Edgcumbe's ship in a cruise of ten weeks in 1746 eighty men out of a complement of 350 were prostrated by scurvy. The occurrence of a single case on board a ship of war would now be considered highly discreditable to the commander, and this important change for the better is attributable mainly to Lind's work. He made experiments as to the utility of several remedies, and decided in favour of oranges and lemons, green food, onions, or, where these were not attainable, lemon juice. He describes the symptoms in detail, and gives excellent directions as to the treatment of convalescents. The interest of the book is somewhat impaired by lengthy quotations from previous writers. It is dedicated to Lord Anson [q. v.], and Lind says that it was the publication of the account of his circumnavigation of the globe, in which seventy-five per cent. of the crews died of scurvy, that led him to think of writing a paper on scurvy for a society of naval surgeons, and that the materials increased to the size of a volume. The book was translated into French, and attracted notice throughout Europe. A second and enlarged edition appeared in 1757, and a third in 1772. The issue of an order by the admiralty to supply the navy with lemon-juice in 1795, two hundred years after it was first known as a specific, and forty years after Lind's ‘conclusive evidence of its worth,’ supplied Mr. Spencer with an effective illustration of administrative torpor in his ‘Study of Sociology’ (libr. edit. p. 161; cf. Tweedie, System of Practical Medicine, v. 62–9). In May 1754 Lind also published in the ‘Edinburgh Monthly Magazine’ a paper on salts of lead, due to the solution of the glaze of earthenware vessels, and in 1757 ‘An Essay on the most effectual means of Preserving the Health of Seamen in the Royal Navy,’ dedicated to Edgcumbe, his former commander. This contains the chief conclusions of his first book, with further remarks on the methods of prevention and cure of malarial fevers, and on the varieties of sickness introduced into the navy by pressed men. A second edition appeared in 1762, and a third in 1779, with an additional chapter on gaol fever.

Lind was elected treasurer of the Edinburgh College of Physicians in December 1757, but on 18 May 1758 wrote to resign that office on his appointment as physician to the Naval Hospital at Haslar. He went to live at Haslar in June 1758, and held this appointment for the remainder of his life. In the year of his appointment he read two papers on fevers and infection before the Philosophical and Medical Society of Edinburgh, in which he describes typhus fever in ships, and recommends the smoke of wood and of gunpowder for disinfection on board. These papers were printed in London in 1763. In 1761 he discovered that the steam from salt water was fresh, and gave a demonstration of the fact before the Portsmouth academy, and in May 1762 before the Royal Society in London, also proposing a simple method of supplying ships with fresh water by distillation. In 1768 he published ‘An Essay on Diseases incidental to Europeans in Hot Climates,’ of which five editions appeared during his life, and a sixth in 1808, and also French and German translations. It contains a summary of the diseases prevalent in each British possession, describes clearly the signs of a malarious region, and gives good general directions as to avoiding tropical diseases. He died at Gosport 13 July 1794.

[Works; information as to records of Royal Coll. of Surgeons of Edinb. from James Robertson, esq., secretary, and as to the records of the Royal Coll. of Phys. of Edinburgh, from Dr. G. A. Gibson, secretary of that college; Gent. Mag. 1794, pt. ii. p. 767; Catalogue of the Library of the Surgeon-General, Washington, U.S.A., vol. viii.; Sir J. Barrow's Life of George, Lord Anson.]

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