In 1957, A Researcher Was Bitten By A Venomous Snake…And Documented His Death
In 1957, Karl P. Schmidt, a snake expert and herpetologist, was working at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, IL. On September 25, he was researching a 30-inch venomous snake that was brought to the museum; his goal was to identify the new snake.
He believed the creature to be an African venomous snake, possibly a boomslang. It was difficult to identify because of an atypical marking.
But then, his identification of the snake was derailed by disaster.
He was bitten. His reaction, though, wasn’t to immediately seek medical attention. Instead, he documented the effects of the venom in a “death diary.”
This video by Science Friday’s Tom McNamara describes how Schmidt documented his final hours. The details are bizarre and tragic.
Hours before he died, Schmidt was asked to see a doctor, but he refused. He believed that it would “upset the symptoms.” He was a scientist, curious and thorough, until the moment he died. He simply wanted to identify the snake and have a detailed (albeit fatal) account of what the bite’s venom would do.
He might have taken “in the name of science” a little too far.