London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London

MSc Clinical Trials by Distance Learning

CT101 The Fundamentals of Clinical Trials

F03 Randomisation

History of Randomised Trials

James Lind is considered to be the father of clinical trials following his experiment comparing six potential treatments for scurvy among 12 patients while at sea on board the Salisbury in 1747. This experiment is considered by many to be the first example of a clinical trial using control groups. He reported that the most sudden and visible effects were seen among the two patients who received two oranges and one lemon daily. Lind considered that the small number of patients used was enough to provide conclusive evidence since the results were so dramatic, although lemon juice was not routinely introduced by the navy for nearly 50 years.

In order to read a much wider discussion of this trial including extracts from the original publication, the implications from the trial and other important landmark experiments you can refer to the James Lind online library (

Photo of an old sailing ship.

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