The Lost Cure for Scurvy

We know that scurvy is a disease caused by lack of vitamin C. In the Middle Ages, ship captains knew that fresh fruit, particularly citrus, would fend off scurvy, which had been the scourge of long sea voyages. Scottish physician James Lind uncovered the citrus cure scientifically in 1747, but vitamin C was still unknown. In 1799, all British Royal Navy ships were ordered to serve lemon juice, but in time the method of preventing scurvy was changed until it was no longer effective, and no one knew why.
It fell to the unfortunate George Nares to discover this fact in 1875, when he led the British Arctic Expedition in an attempt to reach the North Pole via Greenland. Some oceanographic theories of the time posited an open polar sea, and Nares was directed to sail along the Greenland coast, then take a sledging party and see how far north he could get on the pack ice.

The expedition was a fiasco. Two men in the sledging party developed scurvy within days of leaving the ship. Within five weeks, half the men were sick, and despite having laid depots with plentiful supplies for their return journey, they were barely able to make it back. A rescue party sent to intercept them found that lime juice failed to have its usual dramatic effect. Most damning of all, some of the men who stayed on the ship, never failing to take their daily dose, also got scurvy.

Afterward, some doctors thought scurvy must be due to food poisoning or even a contagious infection. Vitamin C was finally isolated in 1932. The tragic story of how the cure for scurvy was lost and then found again is detailed in a fascinating article at Idle Words. Link -via Metafilter

(image credit: Flickr user Paul Denton Cocker)

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im pretty sure sauerkraut is a excelent way to preserve vitamin c. Some historians even give it part credit for the dutch golden age. (apperntly we shipped loads of the stuff on ship food supplies.)
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