The Man Who Died Giving Us Antivenom

In March 1950, Australian herpetologist Kevin Budden, 20, traveled to Queensland with two other snake hunters in an attempt to catch a taipan, one of the most venomous snakes in the world. At that time, there was no viable antivenom for their potent toxin. Successfully locating a specimen, Budden captured the snake before flagging down a passing truck driver who drove him to the home of a local snake specialist to confirm the identification of the snake. Unfortunately, while attempting to transfer the snake to a holding bag, Budden lost his grip and was bitten on the left thumb. Despite medical staff’s initial hopes that the young, healthy herpetologist would recover, he quickly declined and died the following morning. Before passing, he insisted that the snake be transferred alive to Melbourne for further study. Budden’s wishes were followed and the taipan was successfully milked, providing 6 samples in total. Using those samples, an effective antivenom was developed in 1955 and has saved countless lives over the past 6 decades. In 2014, some of the original venom samples were discovered and were found to have retained their lethal toxicity, providing ongoing scientific value.