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Handiworks - The Rattlesnake Experiment
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Experimenting with Rattlesnakes at Dr. Hobson's house in Leeds

Click to enlargeCharles Waterton, grasping a rattlesnake, with Dr. Hobson in charge of the lid of the snake case. This event was held in Dr. Hobson's home in Leeds. The experiment involved comparing the effect of Woorali (curare) poison and rattlesnake venom on a number of subjects - rabbits, guinea pigs and pigeons. The Woorali poison had been brought back by the Squire from his South American adventures.

The assembled, somewhat concerned, throng were medical colleagues of the the Doctor. The scene depicted was at a tense moment, the large and fierce looking snake had managed to force its way out - sending many of the guests fleeing in fear. "In the sudden determination to beat a hasty retreat at every hazard, nearly all fled from their supposed perilous position, and several not only rushed down stairs, but even into the street without their hats. During the whole of these dangerously operative experiments, when the unprotected hand was within the case, in the midst of the deadly poisonous reptiles, the Squire was as much at home as if he had been leisurely selecting the sweetest bon-bon, instead of the most vigorous rattle-snake."

The owner of this case of rattlesnakes was described by Dr. Hobson as a Yankee "who turned out to be a perfectly useless member of our party, openly declaring that he would have nothing to do, 'personally', with his venomous friends, and I will do him the justice to say that he strictly adhered to the honest declaration he had made."


Reference source: Charles Waterton, His Home, Habits & Handiwork, Richard Hobson, M.D., Cantab., Leeds. Published by Whittaker & Company, London, and John Smith, Leeds. 1st edition 1866.

Charles Waterton Exhibition
Charles Waterton
1782 - 1865
Traveller and Naturalist
An exhibition to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Waterton.
Catalogue 1982.
Wakefield Museums & Art Galleries


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