Some of Jane Austen's brothers were in the navy. We all know that sometimes British people, especially English people, are sometimes called Limeys, and most of us know that this is because the Royal Navy made its officers drink lime juice to prevent scurvy. In fact, it is to this practice that is largely attributed the great success of the British Empire.
What most people don't know is how long it took to have this practice recognized as a valid means of preventing the disease. It took at least 50 years for the science to be accepted. It was first proven effective by a German scientist in the 1750s, but people continued to ignore the evidence in favour of their own hack beliefs. Many people believed that washing your mouth out with urine was the best way to prevent scurvy. Some people thought scurvy came from tainted food. Some people thought it could be prevented by exercise.
It was not until a good hundred years later that vitamin C was actually identified - more than 150 years after the first conclusive evidence that citrus fruits prevented scurvy. Vitamins were initially believed to be amines, which is where their name comes from: "Vital-Amines" but once it was discovered that they were not amines, the 'e' was dropped from the name.
Melanie Kerr is the author of Follies Past: a Prequel to Pride and Prejudice
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