An interesting quote

Came across this today. Before our time, but perhaps the slowness of innovation persists.

Quote of the Day

“Certainly, with this further solid evidence of the ability of citrus fruits to combat scurvy, one would expect the British Navy to have adopted this innovation for all ship’s crews on long sea voyages. In fact, it did so, but not until 1795, forty-eight years later, when scurvy was immediately wiped out. After only seventy more years, in 1865, the British Board of Trade adopted a similar policy and eradicated scurvy in the merchant marine.”

— Everett M. Rogers, “Diffusion of Innovations,” fifth edition (2003)


With the present recruiting shortfall and the inability to get ships built, now an old Coast Guard saying seem more true than ever. “We have done so much with so little for so long, we can now do anything with nothing”.


I’ve seen the scurvy example used in a similar context, the “diffusion of innovation”. Not familiar with that book, how is it?

“We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful. We have done so much, for so long, with so little, we are now qualified to do anything with nothing.”

― Konstantin Josef Jireček


Mariners explained this earthsickness or mal de terre by saying that their bodies were unequipped to live at sea. As historian Joyce E. Chaplin writes, “from the 1500s into the early 1800s, circumnavigators offered up their scorbutic bodies as proof that humans were terrestrial creatures, physically suited to the earthly parts of a terraqueous globe.”

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It took an amazingly long time for the germ theory of disease to be widely accepted.
(Postpartum infection](Postpartum infections - Wikipedia), also known as puerperal fever or childbed fever, consists of any bacterial infection of the reproductive tract following birth, and in the 19th century was common and often fatal. Semmelweis discovered that the incidence of infection could be drastically reduced by requiring healthcare workers in obstetrical clinics to disinfect their hands. In 1847, he proposed hand washing with chlorinated lime solutions at Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, where doctors’ wards had three times the mortality of midwives’ wards.[3] The maternal mortality rate dropped from 18% to less than 2%, and he published a book of his findings, Etiology, Concept and Prophylaxis of Childbed Fever, in 1861.

Despite his research, Semmelweis’s observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. He could offer no theoretical explanation for his findings of reduced mortality due to hand-washing, and some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and mocked him for it. In 1865, the increasingly outspoken Semmelweis allegedly suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum by his colleagues. In the asylum, he was beaten by the guards. He died 14 days later from a gangrenous wound on his right hand that may have been caused by the beating.
His findings earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory, giving Semmelweis’ observations a theoretical explanation, and Joseph Lister, acting on Pasteur’s research, practised and operated using hygienic methods, with great success.

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