Joseph Clover and the cobra: A tale of snake envenomation and attempted resuscitation with bellows in London, 1852

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The Industrial Revolution saw the creation of many new jobs, but probably none more curious than that of zookeeper. The London Zoological Gardens, established for members in 1828, was opened to the general public in 1847. In 1852 the "Head Keeper in the Serpent Room", Edward Horatio Girling, spent a night farewelling a friend departing for Australia. He arrived at work in an inebriated state and was bitten on the face by a cobra that he was handling in a less than sensible manner. He was taken by cab to University College Hospital where he was resuscitated by a number of doctors, including Joseph Clover, then the resident medical officer to the hospital and later to become the leading anaesthetist in London. Clover recorded this event in his diary along with the resuscitation method used. The patient eventually died but his treatment created a flurry of correspondence in the medical and lay press. Interestingly, the attempted resuscitation was with bellows, which had been abandoned by the Royal Humane Society twenty years earlier. Clover records other cases of resuscitation with bellows at University College Hospital during his time as a resident medical officer there (1848 to 1853). There is a casebook belonging to Joseph Clover in the Geoffrey Kaye Museum, in Melbourne. This story is one of the many interesting stories uncovered during a study of this book and Clover's other personal papers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-9
Number of pages5
JournalAnaesthesia and Intensive Care
Issue numberSUPPL. 1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Bellows
  • Envenomation
  • Joseph Clover
  • Resuscitation

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