HISTORICAL AND CHEMICAL UNDERSTANDING OF ASCORBIC ACID
Of all of the molecules that I read about in the book Napoleon’s Buttons, ascorbic acid had one of the largest effects on human history. In the early 1500’s, over 90 percent of people that boarded a ship for a long sea journey would die. Most of these deaths were caused by a disease most commonly known as scurvy. Scurvy is an illness that is caused by a dificency in vitamin c. So how does ascorbic acid play such a huge role in history? It is pretty simple.
Scurvy can be prevented rather easily. All one has to do to not aquire this deadly disease is to ingest enough foods that are high in vitamin C. Although it could happen anywhere, it is usually associated with ship voyages because they did not have the food preservation technology that we so today, so it would be illogical to bring citrus fruits on their journey.
In the mid 1700s captain James Cook wised up to this scurvy epidemic. He carried lemon juice around with him, and made his entire crew have citrus fruits very often on their voyage. He could not preserve them for the whole voyage, so he made many stops along the way to pick up fresh fruit for his crew. This directly caused him to have zero tragedies on his ship that resulted from scurvy. It was amazing, these foods that where rather common, and very high in ascorbic acid where a very simple solution, yet it took t\us centuries to figure it out
Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, was the third vital nitrogen-containing compound ever to be discovered (even though it actually doesn’t contain nitrogen). Many animals do not need absorbic acid in their diet because they naturally produce it in their livers. Humans on the other hand do not have that blessing. Human beings must keep ascorbic acid, or Vitamin C in there regular diet, so that we can stay healthy and not come down with a bad case of scurvy. In fact, it is recomended that one consumes at least 60 milligrams of ascorbic acid everyday by many medical professionals.