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            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. 


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The Chemistry of Glucose

Glucose, otherwise known as C6H12O6, is the most common of all the polysaccharides. It provides energy for all plants, animals, and even people. The structure of this molecule looks like a long chain of Carbons with Hydrogens and Oxygens branching off of it. All though this chain is commonly portrayed in a straight line, glucose naturally exists in a cyclic, or circular chain. Sucrose, also known as sugar, is a polysaccharide made of one chain of glucose and another chain of fructose. Sugar is something that is consumed by millions of people on a regular basis.

The History of Glucose

As the new world was discovered, people found that its land was great for many crops that struggled in other places. Among these crops where corn, tobacco, cotton, wheat, beans, and sugar cane. With all of these new crops having the ability to be grown in this new world, and there being a huge demand for them overseas, made it necessary to grow vast amounts of all of these. The one that was grown more than any was sugar cane, to make sugar. Now that there where large amounts of crops able to be planted, the European colonists, and eventually the American citizens required a work force much greater than themselves. Instead of hiring people from foreign countries, they stole people from their homeland in Africa, and sold them into slavery to work the fields. They were horribly mistreated from the disease-infested ride to America on the middle passage to being beaten in the fields of their new home. Since sugar was the largest of the crops grown in this new world, not near as many slaves would have been needed to come and work the fields, so less of this inhumane madness would have occurred.

Is this argument valid?

The argument that the author proposes is that since, sugar was such an important crop to the new world, and glucose is a big part of sugar, that if glucose did not exist, there would not have been as many slaves brought from Africa. Although this may be slightly true, I believe that it would not have made very much of a difference, because the slaves would still have been brought over from Africa to work the fields. Also, the crops of sugar would probably just have been replaced with something else, and the same amount of slaves would have come over. Although this is something to think about, I believe that the author’s argument is invalid.


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