Wednesday, 20 September 2006

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Silas Weir Blah Blah Blah: Read the Post, Please, It's Actually Not Insular and Terrible So this Silas Weir Mitchell fellow I'm working on, he was a doctor first, a herpetologist second, and a novelist a distant, distant third. In addition to "the rest cure," for which he's unfairly but universally reviled, Mitchell's also known as a pioneer in the treatment of snake bites. As he wrote in his (unpublished) autobiography: At one time my scientific work was in the direction of comparative physiology among reptilians, and later, again and again, of researches on the poison of serpents; these were the foundation for more modern studies of toxic albumen. (74) An amateur herpetologist specializing in the chemical composition of venoms, Mitchell collected poisonous snakes. When he heard from the future U.S. Surgeon General, William Hammond, that "he had used with success an antidote for snake poison known as Bibron's" (after the famous French doctor), he considered himself lucky that "just at this time a man offered to sell [him] a half dozen rattlesnakes" (75). Bibron, it turns out, had never heard of his namesake antidote, and so, unsurprisngly, Mitchell's experiments with it failed. Still, Mitchell had a laboratory brimming over with rattlesnakes and a deep desire to study the components of their hemotoxic venom. His father and friends thought this could hurt his medical practice: The late Professor Henry Smith said to me, "What nonsense to bother yourself about snake poisons!" And a larger man, Professor Samuel Jackson, warned me that every experiment in the laboratory would lose me a patient. (72) Not to belabor the obvious, but ... NOTE: Because friends and wives convinced me that no one'll actually believe my tale of Samuel Jackson admonishing Dr. Mitchell to get these blah blahing blahs out of his blah blahing blah, I've provided visual evidence of my honesty.

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