The Scene

In the 18th Century, scurvy was a common ailment for seamen. James Lind, a Scottish physician, conducted one of the first-known controlled clinical trials.


The Story

From The James Lind Library:

Without stating what method of allocation he used, Lind allocated two men to each of six different daily treatments for a period of fourteen days. The six treatments were: 1.1 litres of cider; twenty-five millilitres of elixir vitriol (dilute sulphuric acid); 18 millilitres of vinegar three times throughout the day before meals; half a pint of sea water; two oranges and one lemon continued for six days only (when the supply was exhausted); and a medicinal paste made up of garlic, mustard seed, dried radish root and gum myrrh.


The sailors who were allocated citrus fruits in the study experienced “the most sudden and good visible effects,” according to Lind’s report on the trial. A famous captain and his crew who took Lind’s advice stayed healthy during a four-year journey. Eventually, the British Navy ordered all sailors to drink lime juice.



Clinical Trials Day is celebrated around the world on May 20th to recognize the day that James Lind started this trial aboard the ship back in 1747. Clinical Trials Day is a well-deserved “time out” to recognize the people who conduct clinical trials and to say “thanks” for what they do every day to improve public health.

People choose to participate for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they don’t have access to quality medical care, or they are looking to help others by contributing to medical research. Some people are just looking for a chance to make extra money. 

It doesn’t matter why you choose to participate; you can help develop new treatments for the future. To learn more about how you can help us advance medicine, visit our homepage.