Maret 30, 2011

How LONG Does It Take?

This is an interesting story. In the early days of sea voyages, a significant cause of death in the sea is a disease now called scurvy. It is even more significant than accidents, combats, storms, and other things. For example, only one third of Vasco da Gama's crew was able to make it to India alive in 1499. What happened to the other two third? Scurvy.

One would think that such a big issue must have attracted a lot of attention and therefore it must have been solved immediately by all means and resources. Here's how we finally came up with the solution:
1536 - Jacques Cartier saved his crews who were dying of scurvy by making a tea from the leaves of evergreen tree. He was advised by the natives of America to do this.
1617 - John Woodall wrote a book that described the curative and preventive effects of lemons.
1753 - James Lind published his experiment and concluded the importance of citrus fruits for sea travels.

So, it took eighty years from the first discovery in America to the first study about the benefit of lemons. It then took another one hundred and fifty years to conclude that lemons and oranges are the cure for scurvy. I know this is before the age of e-mails and cell phones, but surely something was unfitting in a two hundreds and thirty years journey of discovering a cure for a very consuming disease.
Is it that difficult to prove the connection between citrus fruits and scurvy, or is it just because we are reluctant to prove it?

Why are we reluctant to prove it? Is it because it sounds like a cure prescribed by witch doctors and isolated natives? Is it because it sounds alien to us?

Is this what Albert Einstein's meant when he said, "The only barriers to my learning is my education"?

Notes: This entry was first posted on my previous blog, which I lost

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