Gilbert Blane

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Sir Gilbert Blane, Bt
Sir Gilbert Blane by Martin Archer Shee.jpg
Gilbert Blane by Martin Archer Shee, 1833
Born 29 August 1749
Blanefield, by Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, Scotland
Died 26 June 1834
London, England
Nationality Scottish
Fields medicine
Alma mater Edinburgh University
Glasgow University (MD 1778)
Known for Use of lemon juice obligatory to prevent scurvy
Influences Lord Rodney
William Cullen

Sir Gilbert Blane of Blanefield, 1st Baronet FRSE FRS MRCP (29 August 1749 – 26 June 1834) was a Scottish physician who instituted health reform in the Royal Navy.[1]


Born in Blanefield, by Kirkoswald, in Ayrshire, he was the son of Gilbert Blane of Blanefield (d.1771) and Agnes McFadzen.[2]

He studied medicine at Edinburgh University and Glasgow University (MD 1778)[1] before moving to London, where he served as private physician to Lord Rodney.

Blane was appointed Physician to the Fleet (1779–1783) and accompanied Rodney to the West Indies in 1779. Blane did much to improve the health of sailors by heeding their diet and enforcing due sanitary precautions. Largely due to his advocacy, the entire navy in 1795[3] made the use of lemon juice mandatory to prevent scurvy.[4] For this reason, "limey" (lemons being replaced by limes, which could be obtained from Britain's Caribbean colonies) later became a common slang word for a British person.

He was a founder member of the Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1783 and delivered their Croonian lecture in 1788.[5] In 1784 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in London.

On his return to Britain, he became Physician to St Thomas' Hospital (1783–1795), Physician Extraordinary to the Prince of Wales (1785) and Physician in Ordinary to the King (George IV and William IV). By virtue of these court and hospital appointments, he built up a good practice for himself in London, and the government constantly consulted him on questions of public hygiene.[4] In 1812 he became a baronet, of Blanefield in the County of Ayr, in reward for services he rendered in connection with the return of the Walcheren expedition.

His printed works include Observations on the Diseases of Seamen (1795) and Elements of Medical Logic (1819).[4]

Blane lived at Burghfield in Berkshire and at Kirkoswald in Ayrshire.

He died at Sackville Street in the Piccadilly area of London on 26 June 1834.[6]


Blane married Elizabeth Gardiner in 1786. She died in 1832.[7]


  1. ^ a b Waterston, Charles D; Macmillan Shearer, A (July 2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF) I. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN 978-0-902198-84-5. Retrieved 19 November 2011. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Stephen R. Bown, Scurvy. How a Surgeon, a Mariner and a Gentleman Solved the Greatest Medical Mystery of the Age of Sail (Penguin Books Australia, 2003), page 222.
  4. ^ a b c  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Blane, Sir Gilbert". Encyclopædia Britannica 4 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 
  5. ^ "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 15 December 2010. 
  6. ^
  7. ^

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