19th Century Darwin Awards Candidate

I found this post on @HistoryWeird's blog here. The original source was The Daily News, London, October 23rd, 1852.

"In October 1852 an employee of London Zoo, Edward Horatio Girling, was killed by a bite from a five-foot cobra. The post-mortem on Girling’s corpse revealed the cobra had bitten him five times on the nose. One of these bites penetrated to the nasal bone and had bled profusely. Girling was rushed to hospital by cab, a journey that took 20 minutes. While in the cab his head swelled to 'an enormous size' and his face turned black. Girling died 35 minutes after being admitted to hospital; both artificial respiration and electrical shocks failed to revive him. Having ascertained how Girling died, the inquest investigated how he came to be bitten in the first place. Early press reports of the incident suggested the cobra had bitten him with 'murderous intent', lunging from the shadows while Girling was delivering food to its enclosure. It soon became apparent, however, that Girling was responsible for his own demise. One of Girling’s work colleagues was Edward Stewart, the zoo’s hummingbird keeper, who testified that:

"'…A little after eight o’clock he was going out of the door with a basket of larks. [Girling] was then by the snake glass. He lifted up the glass and took out the Bocco [a mildly venomous colubrid snake] and held it up by its neck… Girling then said ‘Now for the cobra!’ Deceased took the cobra out of the case and put it inside his waistcoat, it crawled round from the right side and came out at the left side… Girling drew it out and was holding the cobra between the head and middle of the body when it made a dart at his face.'

"Stewart and other witnesses also testified that Girling was drinking gin at breakfast time. A zookeeper named Baker told the inquest 'he believed that the deceased was intoxicated”'. It was also noted that Girling had little if any experience with venomous snakes; he had only recently started working at the zoo after employment with the railways. Unsurprisingly the coroner found that Girling had died as a 'result of his own rashness whilst in a state of intoxication'."

If only we could give out retroactive Darwin awards for pre-Darwinian theory deaths.

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