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Welcome to stuff you missed in History Class, A production of I Heart Radio. Hello and welcome to the podcast. I'm Tracy Wilson. And I'm Holly Fry. This episode is the last episode I am writing for the year 2020.
It's been a year. Yeah. Hooray. Also, I've just I've had minimal contact with anybody besides my spouse that almost nine months. And for some reason, my brain keeps being like scurvy.
And that connection doesn't make sense, really, because if I were to get a vitamin deficiency because of the pandemic, it would probably be about vitamin D from the not going out into the sun. Is that what you're saying? Is that your brain is making a weird jump of concern, a vitamin deficiency, maybe not a concern, but maybe more like at least they don't have scurvy like ha but brain that doesn't make any sense anyway. That's how we're going to talk about today is scurvy, because just for some weird reason, my brain keeps coming back around to it in these times of winter and pandemic.
So scurvy, in case you don't know and you probably do, is a deficiency in vitamin C or a sawbuck acid and it story goes way, way back in history, all the way to our evolutionary ancestors living more than 60 million years ago and with a few exceptions, including guinea pigs and bats, most mammals can generate their own sawbuck acid and that included those primate ancestors. But somewhere along the way, a random genetic mutation broke the ability to produce an enzyme known as El Galloon, Blacktown oxidase or Gullo, which is a necessary part of making a sawbuck acid sawbuck acid.
The results are necessary. The body uses it to synthesize the protein. Collagen and collagen is a crucially important part of our connective tissue. We need it to do really important things like hold our skin and blood vessels together. So if the body cannot replace worn out collagen, it causes serious problems.
The first symptoms of scurvy involve fatigue, lethargy and aching joints. People start to bruise easily, wounds won't heal and old wounds reopen. The gums start to bleed and the teeth start to loosen and can in fact come out entirely. This is also accompanied by foul odors, including very bad breath. Without treatment with vitamin C, scurvy is eventually fatal, often because of acute internal bleeding around the brain or heart.
But when our ancestors stopped being able to produce Gullo, this really did not matter. They were living in tropical areas and their diets included lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. So they were getting plenty of vitamin C through their food. If this had not been through this genetic mutation that shut off the ability to synthesize, Gullo would have wiped them out. But since their diets were rich with vitamin C, they continued to thrive. As people started living farther from tropical areas, they started eating more foods that did not necessarily contain as much vitamin C, but most of the time this was still not a big problem.
Most dietary recommendations call for significantly more vitamin C, but it doesn't actually take that much just to prevent scurvy. Only about 10 milligrams a day are all you need. And although vitamin C is mostly associated with fruits and vegetables, it is found in other foods as well. Most meat contains a little if it hasn't been cooked too long, and liver and kidney meat in particular contain quite a bit of it. So as one example, the practice of eating raw organ meat in far northern indigenous communities provides protection from scurvy even when plant based foods are unavailable or out of season.
So as communities established themselves around the world, people had to have some kind of vitamin C in their diets. Otherwise that community just could not survive. But any time that access to food was cut off in some way, say, because of a war or a famine, people could start to develop scurvy. And this was also true for people with diseases and conditions that kept them from eating or kept them from absorbing the nutrients and their food.
And the word scurvy comes from older terms that mean lazy scabbed or scurvy, which used to be used to describe dandruff. People started using it to describe this disease in about the 16th century, but written descriptions of scurvy that predate that word are much older. The earliest likely description of scurvy is found in the Egyptian document known as the Ebers Papyrus, which dates back to about 1800 BCE past podcast subject. Schreuder described a condition involving bleeding gums and loosening teeth around 800 BCE.
Roughly 400 years later, Greek physician hypocrisies described what was probably scurvy. And while he did not go into detail about the cure, he knew for it. He did note that it wasn't effective and that patients usually died. Traditional Chinese medicine texts describe collections of symptoms that very much resemble scurvy as well.
So today scurvy is associated with long sea voyages, and his humanity took to the sea. People worked out some ways to prevent it, although really without necessarily knowing that that was what they were doing. Many of the earliest seafarers stuck close to the coasts or they island hopped, and that gave them plenty of opportunities to stock up on fresh food. But as voyages got longer, many also had food on board that were rich in vitamin C. It's possible that Polynesian way finders introduced sweet potatoes to Central and South America.
They would have brought them with them over thousands of miles of ocean and sweet potatoes contained vitamin C. Scandinavians stocked their ships with cloudberries, which have about four times as much vitamin C as oranges do unpause. Pasteurized milk also contains vitamin C, so Seafarer's, who had dairy animals on board, could get it that way while scurvy was common enough to be documented in ancient medical literature.
One of the first specifically documented outbreaks happened in the 13th century during the eigth crusade, King Louis the ninth lay siege to Tunis. Although there were plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables available in the area, the king and his fighting force were mostly eating fish, and many were also undertaking religious fasts. The King and about a sixth of his men died of disease during the siege for a long time. Their deaths were attributed to plague. But more recent research has found evidence of scurvy in the king's jawbone.
Not long after this, scurvy started to become a serious problem on European ships during long Scevola ages. And most of the literature that's related to scurvy in history today is focused primarily on Europe and its colonies, mostly during the age of exploration, which was from about the 15th through the 17th centuries. But of course, Europeans were not the only people taking to the sea. At this point. It's possible that other nations aren't as represented in English language literature because of language barriers or prejudice.
But it's also possible that scurvy was just not as much of a problem outside of European fleets. Most of the time, it takes between two months and 12 weeks without vitamin C for a person to develop scurvy. And while sailors from parts of Africa and Asia were taking voyages that lasted much longer than that overall, often they were not going that long between stops to resupply. It also seems like they may have been doing a better job at providing their crews with foods rich in vitamin C past podcast subject Ibn Battuta, who was from what's now Morocco and traveled extensively during the 14th century, described green vegetables and ginger being grown in tanks on Chinese vessels.
He also wrote about salted ginger, pepper, lemons and mangoes being loaded onto ships in preparation for long voyages.
Another previous podcast subject is Zhang Herr, who led fleets of treasure ships from China all the way to Africa in the 15th century. And we don't have lists of exactly what provisions he took. But we do know that his fleets included huge supply vessels whose whole purpose was sustaining the voyage itself and that the ships had kitchens that prepared meals for crews and passengers. There are also multiple references to T in relation to his voyages, and he does contain some vitamin C for the most part.
Written records of scurvy on Chinese vessels don't really start until the 19th century when people left China bound for California during the gold rush. But European ships were another story, especially as European ships crossed whole oceans. People's diets were often restricted to salted meat and hardtack and not much else. Typically, any vegetables grown on board were only for the officers.
Consequently, it's estimated that scurvy killed two million Europeans sailors between the 15th century and the 19th century, which is when navies started to more consistently connect scurvy prevention to things like citrus juice. During these centuries, scurvy was the leading cause of death among sailors at sea. It was also a major cause of death among enslaved Africans during the transatlantic slave trade, although the details of that aspect have not been nearly as specifically documented as with ships crews. And we're going to talk about some more specific scurvy information after we first pause for a little sponsor break.
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Today, scurvy is treated almost like a punch line in pirate jokes, but it was an enormous problem.
For hundreds of years, scurvy killed 100 of the original 170 crew during Vasco Dagmar's voyage to the Indian subcontinent that started in 1897. Ferdinand Magellan left Spain with a fleet of five ships and 15 19, searching for a way to reach Asia from Europe by traveling west by sea. Only 18 of his original crew of 270 made it back to Spain and fifteen twenty two with scurvy being a major cause of death.
Here is how one of Magellan's crew described conditions in his journal. Quote, We ate only old biscuit reduced to powder and full of grubs and stinking from the dirt which the rats had made on it when eating the good biscuit. And we drank water that was yellow and stinking. The men were so hungry that if any of them caught a rat, he could sell it for a high price to someone who would eat it.
In fifteen thirty five, French explorer Jacques Cartier established a fort across the St.. Charles River from the Iroquois and village of Stata Kona that's near what's now Quebec City. That winter was extremely harsh. Katia's ships became ice bound. They were not able to return to France as planned. And when they heard of an illness that was spreading through the indigenous population, they tried to cut off contact with them. But then that same illness started to spread through Katia's own men.
In an account translated by Richard Shacklett, it's described as this quote, Some did lose their strength and could not stand on their feet. Then did their legs swell, their sinews shrink as black as any coal. Others also had all their skin spotted with spots of blood of a purple color, then did a send up to their ankles, knees, thighs, shoulders, arms and neck. Their mouth became stinking, their gums so rotten that all the flesh did fall off, even to the roots of the teeth, which also all fall out about the middle of February of one hundred and ten persons that we were.
There were not ten hole. There were already eight dead and more than fifty sick.
And as we saw it passed all hope of recovery. So at some point Katia went for a walk and encountered Dolma Gaya, who was the son of Konkona, who was the chief of staff. Ticona delegates hold Khadir about a treatment for this disease, which was to prepare a tea from the leaves of a local tree. This tree is not conclusively identified today, but the most likely candidate is the eastern white cedar, whose leaves always contain some vitamin C but have a whole lot more of it in the new growth that comes out in the early spring.
Although at least twenty five men in the fort died of scurvy, this cure was effective for the ones who survived.
There is, of course, a whole lot more to this story outside the part about scurvy, Curdy had actually abducted Domagoj and his brother on his earlier voyage and forced them to accompany him back to France, bringing them back to North America with him in fifteen thirty five. And at the end of his second voyage, Katia abducted them for a second time, along with their father and seven other indigenous people. All but one of them died before Katia returned to North America for his third voyage in fifteen forty one.
Probably the most dramatic and notorious outbreak of scurvy at sea was during George Anderson's four year voyage around the world, which started in 1740. Britain was at war with Spain, and because of the war, Ansen had a serious labour shortage. Even press gangs who were abducting men off the street to force them to serve in the Royal Navy could not provide him with enough men for his fleet. Eventually, this gap was filled with men from Chelsea Hospital, most of whom were sick, injured or elderly, to the point that they weren't able to just leave on their own when they got released from the hospital.
The people who did have the capacity to just walk away did that. So he was left with like the oldest, sickest men from the hospital. And then there were delays in outfitting the ships and the crews ate nothing but ship's rations for months as they waited. And while there were treatments for scurvy on board, none of them contained much, if any, vitamin C, so they did not actually work for the most part. They were also really unpleasant, like drinking a bunch of straight vinegar.
I like vinegar and vinegar, three things, but the idea of just gulping down a whole bunch of it does not sound great to me.
Hard pass. Once they finally got underway, they sailed through terrible storms and were blown off course. By April of 1741, most of the men who had survived those treacherous seas had then developed scurvy by June. They were down from six ships to only three, with only three hundred thirty five survivors out of about thirteen hundred original crew. Finally, they reached the one Fernandez Islands off the coast of Chile. These were home to plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
And as the ships took on fresh provisions and the men at these foods, they gradually began to recover. But because their conditions were so dire when they started getting more vitamin C into their bodies, it actually took more than a month before men stopped dying of scurvy. Anson's dwindling fleet was struck by scurvy again in the Pacific Ocean in the summer of 1742, obviously after they had run out of the fresh provisions that they brought on board.
When his two remaining ships finally got to China, there were only two hundred and twenty seven of the original crew still living. In spite of that, they managed to capture a Spanish galleon that was bound for Manila on June 20th of seventeen forty three. And then with only one hundred and forty five of the original men, they made it back to Britain because they had captured the Spanish galleon.
They were treated as heroes with treasures from the galleon paraded through the streets of London and Ansen named First Lord of the Admiralty in 1750 one.
At this point, I mean, it might seem a little weird for the person who was in charge when all of these people died to then become the first lord of the Admiralty. But at this point, European naval officials had long seen scurvy as an almost inevitable side effect of sending men out to sea for long periods. And they really did not know what was going on with this disease. They did not know about vitamin C or about vitamins at all.
It would be more than one hundred and fifty more years before Kazmir Funk would coined the word vitamin to describe specific chemical substances that the body needed to survive. They did not know about collagen either. The molecular structure of collagen was not discovered until the 1930s. Complicating all of this, diets that lacked vitamin C often lacked other essential nutrients as well. And outbreaks of scurvy frequently happened alongside outbreaks of contagious diseases. So it wasn't always clear exactly what disease was at work, and often multiple conditions were getting lumped together and described as scurvy.
So over the centuries, various people noticed that an assortment of foods seemed to cure scurvy. Sometimes they did put that discovery in writing, but it took a really long time before Navys started consistently keeping effective treatments for it on ships. This was not just a matter of people forgetting that citrus fruit cured scurvy, though it is definitely described that way. Sometimes, like people kind of frame it as people in the past were great big dummies who just kept forgetting that all they needed was oranges.
In hindsight, it is really easy to see that the things that treated scurvy effectively all have vitamin C in them. But at the time, not only did people not know why any of those things actually worked, but their explanations for why they worked were totally off base. So as people tried to come up with cures that were easier to keep fresh on ships than fruits and vegetables, ah, it just kept going down the completely wrong track.
Often James Lind is the one who gets credit for solving the scurvy problem. But it's of course, history. So that means it's way more complicated than that. And we're going to get into all of that after we pause for a sponsor break.
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Find none of them kids on the iPod radio app, Apple podcast, or wherever you get your podcasts. For hundreds of years, medicine in Europe rested on the idea of humans, and this drew from Greek physicians and philosophers like Gailen and Epocrates.
It also appears in the work of Persian polymath Ibn Sina. Similar concepts are part of traditional Chinese medicine and ihr Vayda as well. And in terms of the understanding of scurvy and much of Europe, for hundreds of years, it was believed to be due to putrefaction of the humour's. And then that putrefaction was made worse by bad food, bad air, bad hygiene or sometimes just laziness.
And there were a lot of people who figured out something that worked to treat this. In 1074, Baldwin as raunchiest, wrote about orange juice curing scurvy in Dutch sailors in the late 16th century. Enric OIR wrote about cloudberries treating scurvy in Norse sailors and 16 17.
John Woodall published a reference book called The Surgeon's Mate or Military and Domestic Surgery, discovering faithfully and plainly you method and order of yeast surgeons, chest uses of the instruments, the virtues and operations of medicines with the exact cures of wounds made by gunshot and otherwise as namely wounds, appose fumes, ulcers, fistulas, fractures, dislocations with the most easy and safest ways of amputation, or dismembering the cures of the scurvy of fluxes of you. Belly, a bucolic and Iliakis Passo of Rted Assamese and Equitas Anei end of the calendar year with a treatise of Cure of Plague published for the service of his Master and of the Commonwealth by John Woodhall.
Mr in Surgery. As that very long title mentioned, it had an entire section on scurvy and its treatment.
I think we should bring back the days where we basically include the index in the title.
Yeah, well, I looked at the table of contents for it, and at one point I had the table of contents for what? The section of on scurvy included in here. But it was really just like scurvy, its description, its treatment. Yeah.
Woodall's descriptions of scurvy are similar to what we talked about earlier in the show. And as for its cure, he wrote that quote, As a famous writer named Yohannes, actress in a treatise, discourse affirmance consisted chiefly in four things, namely in opening obstructions, evacuating the offending humour's, in altering the property of them, and in comforting and corroborating the parts lape disease. Woodall's stresses the need to keep the crew's quarters clean and sweet with as much high quality, comfortable food as possible.
But if someone does get scurvy, they should be bled and given some, quote, pills of Euphorbia or otherwise fibular Ruffy or Cambodia. And then after that, some spoon meat or some oatmeal or egg yolk or a broth of currents and other fruit or some sugar or spices or some barley water or some oil of vitriol, which is sulfuric acid, or putting some dried wormwood in the patient's drink and then, quote, further, the surgeon or his mate must not fail to persuade the governor or person and all places where they touched in the NIMBYs and may have it to provide themselves of juice of oranges, limes or lemons, and it banned them of tamarins in the surgeon's mate.
What all makes lots of references to citrus fruit. But he's really focused on when crews are in places where those fruits grow because, quote, the sea surgeon shall do little good at sea with them. Neither will they endure. Yeah, he had stuff about citrus fruit in here, but it was really about when they were on land. And he also included so many other things that would not have been affected at all.
Oil of vitriol was a very common scurvy treatment. It was literally sulfuric acid. That was that was not helpful. In sixteen twenty two, Sir Richard Hawkins, who called scurvy, quote, the plague of the sea and the spoil of mariners, wrote that sour lemons and oranges could treat it in sixteen thirty five. And Brosius Rowdiest defended and published the first Scandinavian doctoral thesis and it was on scurvy. It describes treating scurvy with scurvy grass, common chickweed, watercress, mustard plants and the cloudberries that we mentioned earlier on in the show.
And Brosius Rowdiest did seem to understand that scurvy was connected to nutrition, but his ideas on how that worked were a little bit fuzzy. It was connected to the idea of canceling out opposites. Shizuo By the late 60s, hundreds people were using the word anti score butyric to describe things they believed to be useful against scurvy. Dutch physician Johannes Backstrom used the term to describe fresh fruits and vegetables in 1734. Also in the 18th century, Baron Gethard von Sweeden talked about scarcity of grains and vegetables as contributing to scurvy.
But he also attributed it to, quote, noisome vapors arising from marshy ground and stagnating waters in action, drinking of corrupted and stagnating waters, the use of salted and smoked flesh and fish, damp and low lodgings, as well as sorrow, nostalgia and homesickness. According to Van Sweetin, treatment for scurvy involved, quote, correcting the impure waters and also purging. He also made dietary recommendations, quote, The food should be broth with shergill sorrel spinach, lettuce on the Sukkari, cabbage, especially red cabbage, young nettle buds and tops or any other sort of tender herbage boiled in it.
The preference to be given to those easiest to come at fruit, quite ripe, used moderately, always produces a good effect. But if neither fruit nor greens can be procured, the patient must have his broth with barley, oats or rice. He may eat likewise a little veal or fowl, but it must be moderately so.
A lot of people had noted fresh fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, as a treatment for scurvy. By the time James Lind had entered the British Royal Navy as a surgeon's mate in 1739, he became a full surgeon in 1746, and he was aboard the HMS Salisbury in 1747 when there was an outbreak of scurvy. Lente did an experiment which is sometimes described as the world's first controlled. Clinical trial, he selected 12 sailors, all of whom had scurvy that he described as being at a similar point of progression, and he paired them up and he gave each pair a different treatment over the course of two weeks.
These were treatments that already existed for scurvy. Except for seawater, which was apparently more of a placebo. Don't drink seawater, it's not a good plan. But these these pairs were each given a quart of cider per day. Twenty five drops of elixir of vitriol, three times a day, half a pint of seawater a day, a nutmeg sized paste of garlic, mustard seed, horseradish, balsam of Peru and gum murder three times a day. Two spoonfuls of vinegar three times a day or two oranges and one lemon each day.
I mean, I might opt for the nutmeg size paste of garlic, but that's just me.
I mean, I kind of do that anyway.
The men who were given cider improved somewhat because of the way cider was made at the time. It probably did have some vitamin C in it, but the two men who got oranges and lemons improved so dramatically that they were determined to be well after six days. And from that point, they actually helped take care of the others while he was writing about this land referenced by Dennis Ross, who is writing about oranges carrying Dutch sailors from like 200 years before.
And he said, quote, Here indeed is the remarkable and authentic proof of the great efficacy of juice of lemons against this disease. But these fruits have this particular advantage above any theory that can be prepared for trial that they're experienced. Virtues have stood the test of near 200 years. Linda left the Navy in seventeen forty eight in 1753. He wrote a treatise of the scurvy containing an inquiry into the nature causes and cure of that disease, together with a critical and chronological view of what has been published on the subject.
And while this did include the sentence, quote, Oranges and lemons were the most effectual remedies for this distemper at sea, that was only one tiny part of a 400 page work that talked about a lot of other stuff related to scurvy.
For example, he did not think there was a direct cause and effect relationship between the fruit and the scurvy. He actually thought scurvy was a digestive disease that was caused by blocked sweat glands and that the fruit and to a lesser extent the Seiter were all clearing those blockages. And he also thought that other blockage clearing substances could potentially have the same effect. Lind also recognised that you cannot really just keep citrus fruits fresh on a ship for a lengthy sea voyage.
So he recommended concentrating the juice into a rob. But because of the way that Rob was concentrated, the end result would not have actually contained much vitamin C at all.
I'm I'm thinking of people who drink orange flavored drink and make jokes about not getting scurvy.
And I'm like, there's not really much orange over the next decades. Other people writing about citrus fruits and scurvy attributed their effectiveness to their being a stimulant or because they were full of a vital air that was leaching out of Saylor's bodies at sea. Irish Dr David McBryde tested Multisport, which he believed provided fixed air as a scurvy treatment, although his results were clouded by the fact that he also gave some of his patients citrus fruit. Another person who claimed to conquer scurvy was Captain James Cook, and although there were some scurvy outbreaks on his voyages, there weren't any deaths because of it.
His preferred scurvy preventives were portable soup, which was basically Bolian powder, which I am calling portable soup from now on, as well as malt and sauerkraut. And of those three things, only the sauerkraut would have contained much vitamin C as long as they were eating it raw. He also insisted on bringing fresh provisions onto the ship at every possible stop, which would have kept them supplied more with fresh fruits and vegetables.
And he also insisted on keeping the ship really clean, which would have helped slow the spread of communicable diseases. Finally, after hundreds of years of various people suggesting that Citris might play some part in curing scurvy in 1795, Gilbert Blaen got the British Royal Navy to issue lemon juice to every sailor. This worked to Britain's advantage during the Napoleonic wars and during the 19th century. More and more European explorers and naval officials started stressing the need for lemon or lime juice or for some kind of fresh vegetables on board.
In 1821, William Perry's expedition to the Arctic took, quote, a shallow tray filled with mold on which to grow mustard and cress and their party's only death from scurvy was an officer who refused to eat them. Sir John Franklin's expedition in 1845 kept scurvy at bay for 27 months with lemon juice with scurvy outbreaks, beginning only after that supply of lemon juice ran out. For the most part, the British Navy have started out using lemon juice made from lemons from the Mediterranean to prevent scurvy and the mid 19th century.
They instead started using limes from the Caribbean islands of Monsarrat and Bermuda. Part of the rationale here was the idea that lime juice was more acidic and would thus be more effective at clearing out purported blockages results. Because Britain had claimed those islands territories. So there was they could get things from them that was a free asset to them.
And their minds for sure to them is the very, very important part of that phrasing. But scurvy outbreaks kept happening in other places. Besides European navies, scurvy was a problem during the great famine that started in Ireland in 1845, which would later lead people to incorrectly conclude that it was connected to potassium deficiency. When pasteurization was introduced in the late 19th century, there was an outbreak of scurvy in babies whose families were wealthy enough to be feeding them pasteurized milk in the early 20th century.
Researchers at the Lyster Institute in London realised that guinea pigs could develop a condition that seemed identical to scurvy. As we mentioned up at the top of the show, guinea pigs also cannot synthesise their own vitamin C. Axelle Hulst and Theodore Frohlich discovered that if the guinea pigs were fed only grains, they became ill. But then if they were given cabbage or lemon juice, they got better. They published their work on this in 1987. And then five years later in 1912 was when Kazmir Funk coined the term Vitamin E, which later morphed into vitamin.
At this point, the Lyster Institute was doing a lot of research into nutritional deficiencies, with many of the researchers being women at the Institute, Harriet Chick and Margaret Hume started identifying more and more foods that had a. beauty properties, including cabbage, onions, carrots, fruit juices and potatoes. Alice Henderson Smith also researched exactly which fruits had historically been used in British navy treatments and their efficacy. By the 1920s, it was clear that scurvy was a deficiency in a specific nutrient, but nobody had been able to isolate the nutrient itself.
Then, in 1928, Albert Zent Yorgi isolated a compound in paprika that he named Hecks tyrannic acid. But it was later renamed Aslambek Acid because of its whole anti's score effect. In 1937, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for his discoveries in connection with the biological combustion processes with special reference to vitamin C and the catalysis of Femara acid. Today it is, of course, common knowledge that vitamin C prevents scurvy, but it can still develop any time.
People cannot get enough vitamin C.
Yeah, it's. I read lots of articles about various outbreaks in various places for everything from like refugee camps, where there just are not adequate provisions to like fad diets, where people have tried to cut all fruit out of their diet just all over the place. And, you know, as we said at the top of the show, people who have a whether it's a physiological condition or a psychological condition, who either aren't able to eat or aren't able to absorb nutrients from their food, lots of cases still happen today.
Do you also have a little bit of listener mail that may or may not contain vitamin C?
I do have some listener mail. The first one is actually super, super quick. A listener tweet in the episode on Vivien Thomas. I had said I was not sure why he was given an honorary doctorate of laws instead of an honorary medical doctorate. And we got a tweet from Randi who said, The M.D. degree is never given an honorary status as it confers the ability to apply for a medical license. Doctor of laws, of doctor of humane letters may be given in its place depending on the institution.
That is the thing that had occurred to me is the possible reason when I was researching. But then I saw that there were people who had gotten honorary M.D.. And it occurred to me only after reading Randi's tweet that those people were probably already doctors because it has been a very long year.
I also got an email from Dustin who wrote in after our episodes on Jim Thorpe to talk about the the amateur athlete requirements in the Olympics. And so Dustin wrote, Holly and Tracy, I want to start by saying that although I have not been listening to your podcast for long, I absolutely love it. Cover a wide variety of interesting people from so many different fields of interest. And you always have interesting commentary as he narrate us through these lives. I appreciate your research and the details you bring in from different biographies or other sources while listening to your first, though perhaps not last three parter on Jim Thorpe.
That really had me riveted the whole way through. I was wondering about when the Olympics changed as it clearly now allows professional athletes to compete. Furthermore, after some of your other listener mail, I decided to poke around myself and share what I found with you. So it was not until 1971 that the IOC removed the rule requiring amateurism. What's most interesting was that it was not a result of the Delezio rising of amateur sports and the blurring line between the amateur and pro level, which you spoke about in the podcast.
According to what I read, it had largely to do with Eastern Bloc nations such as the USSR sponsoring their best pros and listing them as soldiers to skirt the rules. Essentially, the Soviets cheated and broke the rules in the process. The next step was the adoption into law of the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, also known as the Ted Stevens Act, named for the U.S. senator who introduced it. This established the US Olympic Committee and allowed them to create additional national governing bodies for each sport, such as U.S. figure skating and the United States Fencing Association.
These bodies are basically used to select Olympic team members and govern the amateur competitions of the sports fan. Side note, the act requires these MGB committees to be at least 20 percent voting representation to include active athletes completed within the last ten years, ensuring the athletes have some say in the way their sports are formed. I'm skipping ahead a tiny bit. So this wasn't necessarily a response to the factors of increased rigor at the amateur level, but spurred on by the same issues of Soviet state sponsored athletes having an upper hand, as well as the issues with the IAU, as we all discussed in the podcast, that you had made some questionable decisions regarding the rules they had in place and the ways in which these rules were interpreted and enforced.
So there is some more detail in the email from there. I had not looked more deeply into how the amateur definitions and requirements had had developed following Jim Thorpe's time in the Olympics. I know there are still so many other social and and representative issues going on in the world of sports.
And it is fascinating to me that how how much of that was related to not exactly international politics, but having grown up in the tail end of the Cold War, I was like, oh yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
So anyway, thank you so much, Dustin, for poking into all that and sending us what you found.
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