Diary of death: the physician documented the final hours of life after a snake bite

Diary of death: the physician documented the final hours of life after a snake bite

In September 1957, the Director of Lincoln Park zoo in Chicago sent to a laboratory at Valdovska Museum of natural history of the baby snake to establish the species of reptiles.


For the study a 76-cm young snakes came from a reputable herpetologist Karl Patterson Schmidt, who worked at the Museum for 33 years and in 1955 became chief curator of the Department of Zoology at the Museum.

Karl Schmidt gave the names of more than 200 species of snakes and was a leading expert on adders, including coral snakes. He created one of the world’s largest Herpetological collections. When the Director of the zoo arrived at the Museum, Karl Schmidt agreed to look at the snake.

Snake bite

Young snake was with a bright pattern, the shape of the head it was similar to the South African green tree snake — boomslang. These notes Schmidt wrote in a notebook immediately after viewing the snake.

But he was interested in the fact that boomslang butt plate (which covers a snake’s anus) was not divided [one anal plate is typical for poisonous snakes, divided plate — non-poisonous].

What he did cost him his life: he picked up the snake, to examine it at a close distance.

Schmidt took the snake in his hands, and the snake bit him on the thumb of the left hand, leaving two small marks.

The scientist tried to squeeze blood from a finger, and then, instead of having to go to the doctor, went back to his records and began to record observations on the effects of snake venom.

Less than 24 hours it will no longer be alive.The last day of the life of Karl Schmidt

Schmidt may have believed, like many of his colleagues at that time that the snake family, colubrid snakes cannot produce enough poison to kill a man.

So Schmidt went home and continued to take notes on the effects of snake venom on him.

Program Science Friday PRI American radio station published a video “Diary of death from a snake bite” — a description of the last hours of the life of Schmidt. This material is based on his own records in his diary:

  • 16:30-17:30: severe nausea, but without vomiting. To HOMEWOOD (a suburb of Chicago) got on the commuter train.
  • 17:30-18:30: Severe chills and shivering, followed by heat — the temperature of 101.7 (38,7 ºC). Mucous start to bleed at about 17:30, most likely, mostly bleeding from the gums.
  • 20:30: Ate two milk toast.
  • From 21:00 to 00:20 slept well. Urination at 00:20 — mostly blood, but some. Drank a glass of water at 4:30 a.m., followed by severe nausea and vomiting, stomach contents — undigested dinner. After felt much better and slept until 6:30 am