09/25/2015

A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie

10:00 minutes

Drawings of "Atropa belladonna" and "Digitalis purpurea." From Köhler's Medicinal Plants via Wikimedia
Drawings of “Atropa belladonna” and “Digitalis purpurea.” From Köhler’s Medicinal Plants, via Wikimedia

Agatha Christie’s characters were electrocuted, shot, stabbed, and occasionally shoved off cliffs. But more often than not, says chemist-turned-author Kathryn Harkup, they were poisoned. Over 83 detective books, Christie killed hundreds of characters using poisons as diverse as digitalis (foxglove), strychnine, and thallium, and she won praise from chemists for her scientific accuracy. Harkups talks with Ira about the many poisons Dame Agatha employed, and explains how the “Queen of Crime” grew to know so much about chemistry’s dark side.

Read an excerpt from Kathryn Harkup’s book, A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie. For more fact cards, like the one below, about the poisons Agatha Christie used, click here.

Illustration from Wikipedia
Illustration from Köhler’s Medicinal Plants/via Wikimedia

Segment Guests

Kathryn Harkup

Kathryn Harkup is a chemist with extensive knowledge of poisons and a passion for Agatha Christie’s mysteries. She is a freelance science communicator who delivers talks and workshops on the quirky side of science.

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