Everything old is new again
Original content by ChangeDriver™
One of the strangest things about the history of scurvy is that people kept finding the cure and then forgetting it.
When Jacques Cartier made his second voyage to North America in May 1535, his crew had developed scurvy by the time the ship reached what is now Quebec City. Cartier’s crew was cured of scurvy with vitamin C given to them by the Haudenosaunee – the Iroquois people.
During the age of sail, scurvy killed more than two million sailors. Even though sailors had learned that vitamin C cured scurvy, people continued to die between Columbus’s transatlantic voyage in 1492 and the rise of steam engines in the mid-19th century. That’s over 350 years.
Why did people continue to die of scurvy when the cure was known?
The doctors and scientific thinkers lacked the knowledge and tools to determine what caused the disease. There were also popular hypotheses related to the black bile and blocked perspiration.
The need for vitamin C was a tough one to figure out. Humans—along with guinea pigs, fruit bats, and several simians—are the only mammals that can’t make their own vitamin C.
Flash forward to modern day when new medical breakthroughs happen daily. We might be deceived into thinking that we couldn’t be plagued with that kind of ignorance again.
We are still delving into the unknown where we face similar risks. Sometimes the unknown is completely new. Other times, we are in a situation that’s happened before, and we’ve just forgotten how to deal with it.
Sometimes change looks completely different on the inside and outside. Other times change looks the same on the outside, but when you dig deeper it’s different on the inside.
How does your organization avoid re-inventing the wheel? How do you track previous solutions to problems that may reappear in the future?