This Thursday at 9pm, Wakefield Museum’s collections will feature on Pain, Pus and Poison: The Search for Modern Medicines a new series on BBC4 hosted by Dr Michael Mosley. The series explores some of the unlikely and surprising sources of many modern drugs.
This week's episode looks at how some poisons have become cures for illness and features the work of Wakefield’s pioneering Victorian eco-warrior Charles Waterton. During travels in Guyana in South America in 1812 Waterton learned how the Amerindian tribes made curare, a poison with which they tipped blow pipe darts. He brought back powerful samples and applied them to a donkey, which he then kept alive by using a pair of bellows to keep it breathing. The donkey survived and lived for decades, and Waterton had led new research into modern anaesthetics.
Back in July 2012 we went up to Waterton’s home, Walton Hall, with the roll of blow pipe darts and a curare bowl he brought back for filming. It is great to see Waterton’s great discoveries getting recognition on national TV.
|Filming at Walton Hall|
|Don't get too close, Dr Mosley - those darts are still deadly|
You can see the Waterton’s curare tipped darts and bowl in the Waterton gallery at Wakefield Museum.