Science on Tap

mark siddall on  a beachToxic Tales Through Time

Dr. Mark Siddall -  Curator and Professor, American Museum of Natural History

Poisonous plants, venomous animals, malicious minerals… all have fascinated and have found their way into cultural and popular narratives for ages. Dr. Siddall, Curator of The Power of Poison, explores the richness of toxins woven through legend, literature, film, and television. What killed the Israelites when they got bored of manna? Did Cleopatra die from an asp bite to her breast? Is there an odorless and tasteless instant-death iocaine powder like that in The Princess Bride? What about the Joker’s venom that causes uncontrollable laughter before a painful death? From the Borgias to Poison Ivy, unseen and mystical agents are not always fabulist; they sometimes hold kernels of truth drawn from contemporary experience and scientific knowledge.

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