Approaching Truth: Clinical Trials Test What We Think We Know

The first-known controlled clinical trial was conducted on the British Royal Navy ship Salisbury in 1747. The ship’s surgeon, a Scotsman named James Lind, was shocked by how many sailors were sick with bleeding gums, joint and muscle weakness, and painful sores. Hoping to reduce their suffering, Lind assigned a dozen sailors in pairs to ingest one of six different daily regimens: cider, vinegar, sea water, diluted sulphuric acid, two oranges and a lemon, or a paste made up of garlic, mustard seed and dried radishes. Within a week, the two sailors in the citrus group had recovered, confirming a remedy for scurvy.