mordicai caeli (mordicai) wrote,
mordicai caeli

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Even whiskey? (11)

Scurvy by Stephan R. Brown.

Gums pull over teeth,
Your bones break again, ha ha!
Oh the Age of Sail.

I don't recall what had myself & some co-workers talking about scurvy, but it soon turned to Wikipedia where we noted that a book we publish was listed under "Further reading." Ah ha! Avaunt! & so it came & I read it. The book is about as glum as you might expect, for a long time-- I mean, just astonishing amounts of sailors died stupidly from this. On & on about the conditions of various navy policies-- over-staffing ships in anticipation of at least fifty percent fatalities, over-crowing that then hastened the spread of diseases, &c. Mess. In the midst of these gross-out accounts of the disease (nasty business) the story narrows in on a surgeon (Lind), a mariner (Cook) & a gentleman (Blane) & how they beat the disease over the course of forty some years. Along the way it shows the pitfalls (& pratfalls) of science-- or rather, of the lack of science. There are a few terms bandied about that I don't like-- a lot of people "instinctively" realize things, & there are the occasional sweeping "most ____ would..." but that is tempered. Tempered? Yeah-- most books of this stripe would pretend that their topic (scurvy in this case) was the axis mundi, the linchpin on which history turned. This freely admits otherwise, while still making the case for scurvy as influential, even foundational. I learned a few neat post-apocalyptic scurvy prevention methods (conifer needle brew! sauerkraut!) though I wish there had been more discussion on the tossed off theory that heart disease was possibly linked to fighting off scurvy during the Pleistocene. Oh, & I always think about essential amino acids & vitamins in these cases-- it can't be that hard to genengineer this stuff right? Especially in the case of Vitamin C-- only humans, guinea pigs, & some primates are susceptible? Homo alpha should be free of it I hope.
Tags: books, haiku

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