Diary Of A Snakebite Death

In 1957 at The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, Karl P. Schmidt, famed snake expert and herpetologist, made a detailed scientific account of the effect of venom from a snakebite in the human body—his body. Schmidt made the record while he was dying. The newspapers called his notes a “death diary.”


Directed, Produced, Edited, and filmed by Tom McNamara
Illustration by Greg Mercer
Narrated by Tom McNamara
Voices by
Charles Bergquist as Karl P. Schmidt
Luke Groskin as The Physician
Music by Audio Network
Wellcome Library Moving Image Collection
Archival material provided by
Archives, The Field Museum
Library, The Field Museum
Poisonous Snakes Of The World: A Manual For Use By The U.S. Amphibious Forces
Prelinger Archives
The Snakes Of South Africa: Their Venom And The Treatment Of Snake Bite
Wellcome Library Moving Image Collection
Thank You To
Division of Amphibians and Reptiles, The Field Museum
Exhibitions, The Field Museum
The Field Museum
Rachel Grill (snake handler)
Dr. Robert Inger
Photography Department, The Field Museum
Alan Resetar

Meet the Producer

About Tom McNamara

Tom McNamara is like the Minnesotan Jacques Cousteau. He’s an explorer of curiosity in search of all things weird, wild & wondrous—from the edge of the world in Amazonia to the deep dark depths of library archives. Projects include: PBS Nature, PBS Digital Studios, The Field Museum, The California Academy of Sciences and The American Guide.

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