Scurvy took a terrible toll in the Age of Sail, killing more sailors than were lost in all sea battles combined. Finding the cure for the dreaded disease ranks among the greatest of human accomplishments, yet its impact on history has been largely ignored.

Now, in this best-selling book, Stephen R. Bown shines a light on how the mystery was solved in a spellbinding tale of ships, sailors, and the age of exploration.


A grand-guy book...The author tells this remarkable story with the skill of a master mariner.

Globe and Mail

{Bown] presents a vivid picture of life aboard ship during the age of sail.

Publishers Weekly

A spirited, stimulating account of how the cure for the feared disease was found, lost, and found again.

Kirkus Reviews

For those who like true-life medical history adventure tales, it's quite a yarn...Bown tells his tale well.

National Post

This book is an engrossing and exhaustively researched look at the disease caused by lack of vitamin C or ascorbic acid in the diet...Rolling along at a jaunty, adventuresome pace, Scurvy articulately chronicles a story centuries-long with nary a wasted word. Stinking gums and weeping sores have rarely been so captivating.

Calgary Herald

If there is risk in making claims as bold as these, Brown circumvents it with his skills as a storyteller. From soft gums and fevered dreams, he constructs not only a gripping account of life at sea during the 18th century, but a fascinating look at turning points in science and history.

See Magazine

Bown certainly has an effective way of rolling out the clues, details, and developments and he does so with research that's simply exhaustive. I used to be fascinated with the Black Death and that whole 'bring-out-your-dead' era, but man, I needed a dozen books to get as well-rounded a history as Bown provides here (bonus points for Brown's documenting real-life characters; there's a humanity to the drama), I also got a compelling story that mixes medical drama with the romanticism of 'Titanic' and its seafaring era.

CD Syndicated

...A fascinating 250-page account of how the British finally unlocked the key to the disease, just in time to turn the course of history...accurately describes how three disjointed efforts to find a cure for scurvy finally unlocked the answer, which had been sitting before their noses for several centuries.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

While Bown's new look at the dread disease may not crack the Christmastime bestseller's list, it may send sales of oranges, lemons, broccoli, and vitamin C tablets skyward. It may also supplement understanding of how the vulnerability of the human body to afflictions had had a powerful impact on the history of North America and the world...Bown makes a quite convincing case, bolstered by other authorities, that had scurvy not weakened the Royal Navy to the point where a blockade of French and Spanish ships was rendered impossible, the American colonies would not have won their rebellion, at least not so quickly and on such extraordinarily generous terms.

Log Cabin Chronicles

Bown...chronicles this horrific disease and the long search for its cure with gripping results.

Library Journal

If after reading a 250-page book about scurvy you're still interested in looking up more information on the topic, then chances are this is a pretty good book.

University of Toronto Bookstore Review

...Bown really hits his stride with this one, weaving a tale of medical discovery into a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas that deserves to give the reigning king of the romance of science genre, Simon Winchester, a good run for his money.

Toronto Star

If after reading a 250-page book about scurvy you're still interested in looking up more information about the top, then chances are this is a pretty good book.

University of Toronto Bookstore Review

About the Author

Stephen R. Bown

Posted by Kendra on December 6, 2014
Stephen R. Bown photo

Stephen R. Bown

Stephen R. Bown was born in Ottawa and studied history at the University of Alberta. In the summer of 2001 he hiked for seven days to retrace the famous Scottish botanist David Douglas' route over the feared Athabasca Pass. He contributes to several magazines, including Alaska, Mercator's World, Beautiful British Columbia, and The Beaver. Bown lives outside Calgary, Alberta with his wife and son.