Why we need the James Lind Library

Laura Bothwell


The James Lind Library is an incredible resource for historians.

My own scholarship and teaching on the history of controlled clinical trials and evidence-based medicine have relied extensively on the JLL. The meticulously curated collection of historical tests of treatments has been instrumental for my research charting trends in trials over time. I have also greatly benefited from consulting the work of other scholars who have relied upon the JLL collection. I am immensely grateful for the ongoing work of the JLL and the unique and unrivaled lens that it provides into the history of testing health care interventions.

Carl Heneghan

Director, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, Professor at Oxford University

The James Lind Library is the premier resource for understanding the history of research methods, which is essential to improving research in the future and improving health and wellbeing.

Recently I faced a problem in determining the need for randomisation and comparative control groups. The resource I used was a report of a 1955 clinical trial report that changed my career by David  Sackett [1]

The article flawlessly illustrates the importance of developing fair tests in treatment and the James Library’s vital role for scholars of EBM.

Jeremy Howick

Philosopher and historian of evidence-based medicine and placebos, University of Oxford and Cardiff University.

I use the James Lind Library (JLL) as a main source for my research on the history and philosophy of medicine, including for my forthcoming book on the history and philosophy of placebo and nocebo effects (Johns Hopkins University Press).

The JLL is organised into easily understandable and useful categories, it includes pictures of excerpts of original texts, and includes intelligent commentaries from many of the best historians of medicine in the world. The JLL is accused by some academic historians as being ‘whiggish’ yet is the most comprehensive compilation of original sources on the history of tests of treatments I am aware of, and should be used as a model for other sub-disciplines within the history of medicine.

Ted Kaptchuk


The James Lind Library (JLL) has been an indispensable source of knowledge, inspiration and support throughout my career.

The need to understand “bias” in medical research and ways to reduce such “bias” needs awareness of the history of “bias” and methodological tools to reduce systematic errors. The JLL is the primary resource for the medical and research community’s ability to glean insights from the past. I and my colleagues are thankful for this critical resource.

Ben Toth


James Lind Library is one of a select handful of web resources that fulfil the promise imagined by Tim Berners Lee when he created a universal enquire within.

It doesn’t drop cookies, isn’t supported by advertising, and won’t distract you with clickbait. Instead it is a uniquely valuable archive of expertly curated content about fair tests of the effectiveness of medical treatments. And so it becomes more valuable every day as the Internet becomes log jammed with alternative facts.

David S Jones

Harvard College Professor

The JLL has been a great resource for me for both teaching and research.

When I have explored the history of clinical research in surgery, I often start with the JLL collection and its invaluable essays about famous people (e.g., Lind’s famous scurvy trials), obscure treatises, and other episodes that define the advent of quantification, controls, blinding, and much more.

Clearly written and often concise, the essays are terrific for both undergraduate and graduate teaching.

Thomas Schlich

Professor in the History of Medicine at McGill University

I would be very happy to know that this indispensable resource for research and teaching will get the funding it needs to continue its valuable work.

The website, which illustrates the development of fair testing methods of medical treatments in the health care system, is an extremely useful resource. I personally have used it several times for my studies in the history of surgery. Students at different levels have also used the website to inform themselves on topic like RCTs and the history of statistical evaluation of treatment results.

Hubert Steinke

Director of the Institute for the History of Medicine, Professor at the University of Bern.

I hope very much that the James Lind Library will continue to thrive. Anybody supporting this project will contribute to improving the education of current and future physicians.

The James Lind Library is an invaluable tool for everybody who wants to understand the development of fair tests of treatment. I use it in my lectures on the history of Evidence Based Medicine and whenever discussing with students the fundamental question of how knowledge in medicine is gained and evaluated.

Studying, explaining and discussing the development of clinical trials is not some kind of leisure activity for bourgeois doctors. All doctors need to be aware of the continuous development of medicine’s methods to gain knowledge and they have to be able to understand the fundamental epistemological questions this entails.


  1. Sackett DL† (2008). A 1955 clinical trial report that changed my career. JLL Bulletin: Commentaries on the history of treatment evaluation.