Boomslang snake
A venomous boomslang snake was responsible for the death of Karl P Schmidt Wikimedia Commons

In 1957, a scientist by the name of Karl P Schmidt was bitten by a venomous boomslang snake which he was examining to help identify it for the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The herpetologist failed to take the proper precautions when handling the deadly reptile and ultimately met his maker.

It's unclear whether Schmidt thought that the venom from the sub-Saharan snake, which is around 30in long and brightly coloured, wasn't deadly or if he knew that the antivenom was only available in Africa and decided to accept his fate, but the 24-hours that followed on 25 and 26 September, 1957, proved to be his last.

Following his train ride home from work, Schmidt began writing the effects of the bite in his journal. "4.30-5.30pm strong nausea but without vomiting. During a trip to Homewood went on a suburban train," it begins, as noted by PRI for its latest science podcast. "5.30-6.30pm strong chill and shaking followed by fever of 101.7. Bleeding of mucus membranes in the mouth began about 5.30, apparently mostly from gums. 8.30pm ate two pieces of milk toast.

"9pm-12.20am. slept well. Urination at 12.20am mostly blood but a small amount. Took a glass of water at 4.30am, followed by violent nausea and vomiting, the contents of the stomach being the undigested supper. Felt much better and slept until 6.30am."

Then, his final journal entry: "September 26. 6.30am: Temperature 98.2. Ate cereal and poached eggs on toast and apple sauce and coffee for breakfast. No urine with an ounce or so of blood about every three hours. Mouth and nose continuing to bleed, not excessively."

Following this, Schmidt's wife was forced to call a doctor as her husband became unresponsive. The physician arrived to find Schmidt drenched in sweat and unable to speak. The doctor attempted to resuscitate him on the way to the hospital but he was pronounced dead upon arrival at 3pm.

An autopsy report stated that he had died from respiratory failure but it also said that he was bleeding from the lungs, eyes, heart, kidney and brain.