In the Births Marriages and Deaths of The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent there is the following entry for a death that occurred on Saturday 3 February 1900

A report on Monday 5th February 1900 added the following

"A sad poisoning fatality occurred in Sheffield on Saturday morning. A surgeon named HARVEY residing in Pear Street knocked at the door on his housekeepers bedroom and exclaimed "If you want to see me alive again, come, for I shall be dead in ten minutes" He immediately relapsed into unconsciousness, and died before medical assistance arrived. On the surgery table was a bottle of poison, which it surmised deceased had mistaken in the dark for an innocuous sedative"

On the face of it there is nothing remarkable about the entry, but on 6th February the same newspaper carried a report of an Inquest into the circumstances surrounding Dr Harvey's death.

It is apparent that there was no intention to commit suicide but the effects of this "pick-me-up" are devastating. Wikipedia notes

" It produces some of the most dramatic and painful symptoms of any known toxic reaction. For this reason, strychnine poisoning is often portrayed in literature and film...
Ten to twenty minutes after exposure, the body's muscles begin to spasm, starting with the head and neck in the form of trismus and risus sardonicus. The spasms then spread to every muscle in the body, with nearly continuous convulsions, and get worse at the slightest stimulus. The convulsions progress, increasing in intensity and frequency until the backbone arches continually. Convulsions lead to lactic acidosis, hyperthermia and rhabdomyolysis. These are followed by postictal depression. Death comes from asphyxiation caused by paralysis of the neural pathways that control breathing, or by exhaustion from the convulsions"

Dr Harvey must have died in agony!


The Sheffield and Rotherham Independent 5 and 6 February 1900


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This page was last updated on 25/03/13 10:45