Arsenic, radium, and a locked room cyanide mystery: Poisons and the rise of forensic toxicology in early 1900s United States

Tiny Matters

At the beginning of the 1900s, New York City was in turmoil. Prohibition loomed, outbreaks of typhoid and an influenza pandemic had people on edge, and the city was steeped in corruption. One of the many consequences of that corruption was a completely inept coroners office.

Instead of having trained medical examiners work out the causes of sudden and suspicious deaths, New York City coroners were politically appointed. And they didn’t have the slightest idea of how to do a thorough autopsy. They were sign painters and milkmen and funeral home operators and people who had done favors for the party. They bungled the cause of death so consistently and so dramatically that the police and the district attorney's office told coroners to stay away from their crime scenes.

This was a horrific situation, unless you were a poisoner. In January, 1915, New York City’s government released a report saying that murderers were easily escaping justice and that “skillful poisoning can be carried on almost with impunity.”

In this episode of Tiny Matters, Sam and Deboki chat with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Deborah Blum, the author of The Poisoner’s Handbook, about the rise of forensic toxicology in the United States. Listeners will be taken on a journey through some of the disturbing poisoning cases of the time that helped lay the groundwork for the field — with a focus on arsenic, radium and cyanide — and the pivot role medical examiner Charles Norris and chemist Alexander Gettler played in restoring public safety and finally stopping poisoners in their tracks.

Transcript of this Episode

Sam Jones: Hi Tiny Matters listeners! Sam here. Deboki’s going to kick off the episode in just a second, but first I wanted to tell you about a couple things. We now have a YouTube channel. We upload audio for all of our episodes there as well as some fun YouTube shorts of us and the people we chat with. So please go check it out. Also, we have a survey up until Friday, April 26th and anyone who fills it out will be entered to win a Tiny Matters mug. Go to to fill it out. I’ve also put a link in this episode’s description. Alright, here's Deboki.

Deboki Chakravarti: At the beginning of the 1900s, New York City was in turmoil. Prohibition loomed, outbreaks of typhoid and an influenza pandemic had people on edge, and the city was steeped in corruption. And one of the many consequences of that corruption was a completely inept coroners office.

Instead of having trained medical examiners work out the cause of sudden and suspicious deaths, New York City coroners were politically appointed. And they didn’t have the slightest idea of how to do a thorough autopsy.

Deborah Blum: They were sign painters and milkmen and funeral home operators and people who had done favors for the party. And they bungled cause of death so consistently and so dramatically that the police and the district attorney's office were always saying, "Please don't send a coroner to my crime scene." I mean, it was just a complete disaster of a situation.

Sam Jones: That’s Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, director of the Knight Science Journalism program at MIT, and the author of six books including The Poisoner’s Handbook, which was the inspiration for today’s episode.

To give you a sense of how much of a disaster the coroner’s office was, a death certificate from the time might read that a person died of “either assault or diabetes”. Or it might say that the cause of death was from diabetes, tuberculosis or nervous indigestion. Other death certificates simply read, “act of God.” 

So this was obviously a terrible situation. Actually, let me rephrase that. It was a terrible situation for most. Because if you were a poisoner, it was ideal. You could get away with murder quite easily. In January, 1915, the city government released a report saying that murderers in New York were escaping justice and that, quote, “skillful poisoning can be carried on almost with impunity.”

Fortunately, there was a bright spot on the horizon.  

Welcome to Tiny Matters, I’m Sam Jones and I’m joined by my co-host, Deboki Chakravarti.

Deboki: Today on the show, Sam and I will be talking about the rise of forensic toxicology in the United States, including some of the cases and scientists who laid the foundation for it. The goal of forensic toxicology is to detect the presence of different toxins, including drugs, in a deceased person’s body. And the ability to do that may feel like such a given now, but for many, many centuries it was very hard to track down poisoners.

In fact, it took until the 1800s for the first methods of poison detection to come about. The first was arsenic. At the time it was frequently referred to as the inheritance powder because people were using it to kill off relatives that stood between them and their inheritance.

Sam: At the same time, there was a boom in the chemical industry. When World War I broke out in 1914, the use of new toxic compounds like chlorine gas and mustard gas in battle gave it the name the “Chemists’ War.”

So in the late 1800s into the early 1900s, you have these opposing things happening: scientists are learning how to detect poisons in a body while at the same time it has never been easier to create new poisons. There is a race to catch these poisoners, and an inept coroner’s office filled with men known to sell fake death certificates and turn up to crime scenes drunk certainly was not helping.

Deborah Blum: The coroner's office became such a scandal. The chief coroner was a notorious alcoholic, everything was a mess, that the state forced New York to hire its first Chief Medical Examiner in 1918. That was Charles Norris. That is really where my story begins.

Deboki: Charles Norris came from a wealthy family. In fact, his ancestors were the founders of Norristown, Pennsylvania. Norris studied at Yale, played football there as well, and trained in public health and medicine. He was a man of influence and he definitely enjoyed the finer things. But he also cared about people — a lot.

Deborah Blum: He was driven by the idea that public health should save lives and make a difference, and he cared about that, I think, even more than his social or monetary standing. He funded a lot of the medical examiner's office when the city wouldn't do it. He just was driven to make a difference. You see this throughout his career.

At the same time, he was a big wealthy aristocrat. One of my favorite things about him was that he never went to a crime scene unless he was driven by his chauffeur. He would sweep up to crime scenes in his limo, in his fedora, in his long coat and storm upstairs. He was a total presence. He was confident, he was dramatic. He had all the authority and confidence of someone who had been raised in a position of power and had taken that to believe he could make a difference.

Deboki: In stark contrast to Charles Norris was a man named Alexander Gettler. He’s the other key figure you’ll hear a lot about in this episode. Gettler is often referred to as the father of American toxicology, which you’ll soon learn is for very good reason.

Deborah Blum: Gettler was socially at the opposite end of the spectrum. His family had immigrated from Hungary. They had no money. He had a passion for chemistry from a very early age, but he had put himself through school working as a ticket taker on the night ferry... He was publicly shy, he was reserved. He was incredibly precise and dry and methodical in the way he presented evidence.

If you got to know him really well, he could be a lot of fun. He was a notorious gambler and poker player and placed bets with his bookie every single day from the office. That was really hidden from public view. Publicly, you have this big confident wealthy Yale graduate booming his message out into the world, and you have this very slight small Hungarian immigrant sort of standing behind him and quietly backing up Norris' pronouncements with evidence. They were a perfect team in that way.

Deboki: It was a pioneering move by Norris, now the medical examiner, to say a forensic chemist was needed on staff to help determine cause of death. And it was very, very needed, because, remember, chemistry was a rapidly evolving science and poisoners knew it.

Deborah Blum: It was an incredible challenge, and they changed forensic chemistry in all kinds of ways. If you look at Gettler as a chemist, the incredible number of firsts, the really pioneering work on cyanide, he was the first chemist in the world to figure out how to tell if someone was drunk at time of death. He was the first chemist in the world to work out how chloroform operates in the brain. He was first, after first, after first … He was fundamental to our understanding of everything from wood alcohol to radium. I mean, just incredible work at this tiny underfunded department. It was a privilege to bring those guys back to public attention, frankly.

Sam: So let’s talk about some poisons and how Charles Norris and Alexander Gettler’s brilliance and tenacity began to turn the tide in chemists’ favor.

We’ll begin at the Hotel Margaret. In The Poisoner’s Handbook, Deborah describes this hotel as glittering like an enormous holiday ornament. It was a beautiful 12-story building made of brick, limestone and terracotta, with copper balconies and arched windows. It was built in 1889, located in an upscale Brooklyn neighborhood, and by the 1920s, the Hotel Margaret was not just a hotel, it also offered residential apartments. Seventy-five-year old Fremont Jackson and his sixty-year-old wife Annie called it home until 1922, when they were found dead on their bathroom floor.

Deborah Blum: It was a locked room mystery. They were found dead with some marks of some kind of mysterious trauma on the body.

Deboki: Annie and Fremont’s skin had turned a bluish color, their teeth were clenched, and there was blood frothing from their mouths — all indicators of cyanide poisoning. Cyanide is a chemical compound made up of a carbon and nitrogen triple bonded to each other. It causes chemical suffocation by blocking cells from using oxygen and it kills quickly, probably too quickly for Annie and Fremont to have been poisoned elsewhere and have made it all the way home before dying on their bathroom floor.

But not the slightest trace of cyanide could be found in their apartment. And here’s the real kicker: When Alexander Gettler examined their stomachs, there was no cyanide there either.

Sam: The test used at the time to detect cyanide was called a Prussian blue test, where a mix of chemicals were added to purified bits of the stomach and its contents in a flask. If cyanide was present, a brilliant blue would appear. But test after test, and still no blue. Gettler was frustrated. But then…

Deborah Blum: Eventually, one of the Brooklyn detectives who kept going back and pushing, pushing, pushing, finds out that no, there was no one doing anything particularly toxic in their apartment, but they had fumigated the basement, which went under this particular hotel room, for rats.

Sam: And guess what that rat fumigant was? Hydrogen cyanide.

The district attorney persuaded Fremont Jackson’s family to let them dig up his corpse and remove his lungs for analysis. Even just opening up the lungs, Gettler knew they were onto something — the hemorrhaging and swelling was super obvious. And when slices of lung tissue were tested just as the stomach and its contents had been, they glowed a vibrant blue. But the investigators still needed to prove that fumigation in the basement could have in fact made it to the Jacksons’ room and killed them. So they set up an experiment.

Deborah Blum: They put rats, white lab rats in the apartment and then released hydrogen cyanide, pesticide fumigation materials in the basement. And in fact, the rats died. It was pretty clear that this hydrogen cyanide had come up through the ventilation system into the apartment and killed these people. When they went back to the hotel management and then the manager was like, "Oh, I forgot. I forgot that we were fumigating that day." The actual fumigator had disappeared. They had to hunt him down. He was in hiding.

Deboki: The fumigator and hotel manager were put on trial for manslaughter. But — and this is so frustrating! — no one was convicted because at the time the belief was that cyanide breaks down so quickly that it could never be found in a corpse that had been unearthed. So Gettlers findings of cyanide in the lungs must be wrong. The defense attorneys smeared him as an incompetent scientist. And this haunted Gettler.

Deborah Blum: Gettler went back, did all kinds of tests on how long cyanide stays in tissues after death, and discovered that you could detect it at pretty much the lethal level weeks if not months after death. He had actually found this, he had actually done everything right. There was no literature of toxicology to back up his point. He had to create it.

 In 1938, he published a paper on the toxicology of cyanide that lays out all of these things we're talking about — every single detail of cyanide and how you find it in tissues, and the damage it does, and the chemical signs of it, and how you test for it, and what parts of the body you look in particularly. All of this in this 1938 paper that is still cited today because it's so rock solid good. And that's where, if you go back to Alexander Gettler, Mr. Publicly Boring, you think, man, but he was a terror in the laboratory, right? He was fierce and relentless. I totally admire that.

Deboki: While cyanide is fast acting, the next poison we’ll talk about — radium — takes time. Radium is a radioactive element that was discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie. The name comes from the Latin word 'radius', meaning ray, and it’s fitting: a form of radium, when mixed with a zinc compound, creates a beautiful blueish-green glow.

During World War I that glow was not just pretty but important.

Deborah Blum: This glowing material becomes essential to military instruments of the time. You want to be able to read dials of weaponry and timers and wristwatches without lighting the room up. They start using radium-based paint in military weapons. At the same time, the discovery of radioactive elements like uranium and radium and polonium and all of this sort of family was considered almost like this magical thing. The earth is alive under our feet. The rocks aren't dead, they're glowing with energy, they're sparkling with sunlight power. They're amazing things. So no one looked at them and said, "Is there a downside to this sparkle of life underground? This is just amazing."

They used to actually take chunks of uranium and put them into spas so that people could swim in the glow of this underground sun. There's all kinds of tonics and candies and makeup and drinks that give you energy, all using the wonderful glow of radiation, which really gets debunked by the watch dial painters eventually in some fairly horrifying ways.

Sam: The wrist watch dial painters at the United States Radium Corporation plant in Orange, New Jersey were typically young immigrant women who were paid per watch dial. So the more you painted, the more money you earned. The faces of these watch dials are very small, so to paint the tiny numbers and lines needed, these women had to make sure the brushes they used formed a super sharp point. To do this, they were taught to lip point the brushes, meaning you dip the brush, paint a number, and if the brush becomes a little fuzzy, you sharpen it again by putting it back in your mouth.

Deborah Blum: These young women are constantly swallowing this radium-based paint. Of course, since radium is this ‘wonder thing,’ they don't think of it as dangerous. They used to paint their teeth and make glowing green smiles and things with it because everyone thought it was so harmless. Then they started to get really sick, and the illnesses they had were, when we look at them now, we say these are illnesses characteristic of bone marrow diseases. They developed leukemias. They developed anemias. Their bones broke. Their bones shattered underneath them, actually, their jaws crumbled, and they start leaving the factory and eventually dying.

Sam: What no one knew at the time was that radium is similar enough, chemically speaking, to calcium that the body will actually start to store it in places where calcium is stored, such as bone. And as radium replaced calcium, these women’s bones started to crumble.

Deborah Blum: There's a medical examiner, Harrison Martland in New Jersey, who also comes from an aristocratic family and is a good friend of Charles Norris. He starts looking at these women, and he does some very simple tests. One of them, and the one that really stuck with me, is he discovers these women both still at the factory and the ones who have retired due to illness are exhaling radon gas. He's like, "What in the world is going on? Why would they be exhaling radon gas?"

Deboki: Radon gas is a breakdown product of radium. These women were so filled with radium that they were breathing out detectable amounts of radon. So Martland, the medical examiner, goes to Norris and says, can I borrow Alexander Gettler?

Deborah Blum: They exhumed the bones of one of these young women who died, sent them up to New York. Gettler does a whole series of experiments with photographic paper, just essentially seeing if light will spatter on negatives. He grinds the bones into pieces, or he wraps them in the photographic paper. Then he takes a comparison group of bones from someone who just died in an auto accident or something. Those films are dark, but the bones from this young woman are like a constellation, that's how I see it when I see these images. It's like stars spattered across this dark sky. All of those stars are points of radioactive contact.

Deboki: Many of the watch dial painters and their families fought back, bringing lawsuits against the United States Radium Corporation. They’re dubbed “the radium girls.”

Deborah Blum: They bring suit against the U.S. Radium Corporation, and the U.S. Radium Corporation says, "Well, this isn't a poison because you didn't die on the job. If you'd really been poisoned, you would've died right there because that's how poisons work. Look at cyanide, look at arsenic, look at strychnine. Look at any of what we call poisons, they kill you within minutes or days, but you don't die weeks after you've left so therefore, we're not responsible, and this isn't a real poison." That trial had Norris and Gettler and Martland and a whole bunch of other toxicologists saying, "We need to redefine what a poison is, and we need to look at long-acting poisons."

Deboki: In 1928, five of these women ultimately received a settlement, but at that point over a dozen of their fellow watch dial painters were dead and doctors predicted they would not be far behind. Although it wasn’t a big victory it was still significant because it kick started life-saving  conversations surrounding the regulation and handling of radioactive material.

Sam: We’re going to end today’s episode with a story about maybe the most famous poison: arsenic.

When you hear about an arsenic poisoning there’s a good chance the poisoner used arsenic trioxide, sometimes referred to as white arsenic, which is composed of two arsenic atoms bound to 3 oxygen atoms. It’s easily absorbed when ingested or inhaled, but it will also slowly absorb through the skin. Arsenic interferes with a process called cellular respiration which, on its most basic level, turns sugars into energy. Without cellular respiration your cells will die and so, with enough arsenic, you will too. Small amounts of arsenic can cause nausea and vomiting but larger amounts can lead to more severe symptoms like brain swelling and, of course, death.

Deborah Blum: It was the first poison that professional forensic toxicologists figured out how to find in a corpse and that was because, in the 19th century, and I think you actually mentioned this, Sam, it was the poison of choice for so many people, you know, it was the inheritance powder. It was the inheritance powder in part because, until science messed it up, it was a perfect homicidal poison. It's tasteless, it's odorless, it mimics the symptoms of a natural illness.

You feel lousy, but you don't necessarily say, "Oh, I've been poisoned." And of course, in the early 19th century, they didn't know how to find it in a body, so you could poison someone, but actually you couldn't prove that they'd been poisoned. The standard test was you fed their last meal to the dog or something, and if the dog died, it must've been poisoned, right?

Sam: The first test for arsenic was developed by British chemist James Marsh in 1836. Deborah told us this really began a movement toward trying to understand the chemistry underlying a poison and using that knowledge to detect it. But, even when it could be detected, pinning a poisoner could be difficult because arsenic was so easy to come by.

Deborah Blum: It was in cosmetic formulas to make your skin more pale and clear and beautiful, or it was in rat poisons. The most popular rat poison that had arsenic was called Rough on Rats, which contained arsenic trioxide.

Deboki: On a warm July day in 1922, seventeen-year-old Lillian Goetz left for work, refusing the box lunch her mother offered to make her, telling her it was just so hot outside she would pick something up at a nearby lunch counter. She bought a sandwich, coffee and a slice of huckleberry pie from the nearby Shelbourne Restaurant and Bakery. By the end of the day, she was dead, as were a handful of others who ate at the Shelbourne. Sixty people had been rushed to a nearby hospital. There were so many ambulances zooming down the southeast side of Manhattan that people started calling the police department asking if the city was on fire.

Arsenic was found in the pie crusts and rolls at the Shelbourne, but not in the ingredients used to make them, like butter, flour, or salt. That indicated there wasn’t some sort of accidental contamination in the dry goods. Someone had intentionally added arsenic to the dough after it was mixed, maybe even as it sat in the kitchen refrigerator.

Sam: Both Charles Norris’s autopsies and Alexander Gettler’s organ-by-organ chemical analyses of the victims confirmed that it was indeed arsenic poisoning. The main suspect was a disgruntled baker who was possibly trying to get back at his employer, but no one was ever pinned for the murders. As we mentioned earlier, it was just so incredibly easy to come by arsenic. And that meant that it continued to be a powerful killing tool. In this case, poor Lillian Goetz was a victim. Something her mother could never let go of.

Deborah Blum: There's this moment in that where I was reading this conversation between the mom and the police … you could tell in the way this woman is describing this incident, that she is looking at this moment where she doesn't talk her daughter into taking the homemade lunch and her daughter dies. She failed to protect her child. It just weeps through the words. I was just imagining being in that place, that moment where you didn't save your child. That spoke to me so strongly that I used that story, which I thought was so sad to talk about this whole case.

Sam: After The Poisoner's Handbook was released, Lillian Goetz’s great nephew wrote to Deborah and told her, "You've solved a family mystery for me.” Because apparently no one would talk about the tragedy. He had heard that his great-grandparents never returned to church after Lillian’s death because they did not believe in a God that would let their daughter die that way. He sent Deborah a photo of Lillian when she was a little girl, as well as a poem that she had loved.

Deborah Blum: When I go out and I talk about that book as a reporter, I use that photo and I say to people, "It's important to remember that when we're telling these stories, we're telling these stories, they're real."

As individuals, we can feel completely powerless in a daunting system. I think it's important to remember there are people like Norris and Gettler who as individuals drove a conversation and changed science and make a difference. In fact, individuals who are stubborn and determined, and obviously not always easy to deal with, but people who don't give up on what they care about can actually make a difference. That was one of the things to me that was more rewarding about this book, was to bring them back to public attention, to remind people that they mattered and to remind people that individuals matter.

Sam: Tiny Show and Tell. I think I went second last time, so I can go this time.

Deboki: Yep.

Sam: Perfect. We all know that microplastics are everywhere. We've done an episode on microplastics and PFAS, so if people are interested in checking that out and learning more, please go for it. But essentially, microplastics are tiny, tiny pieces of plastic, oftentimes not visible to the naked eye. It's well known at this point that there are microplastics in kind of everything, including our organs and our tap water. There was this interesting study that came out a couple months ago that I was thinking about this morning as I was getting a glass of water. So what these researchers did was they actually boiled tap water, and by doing that very simple thing. They found that it removed around 90% of the nano and microplastics present, which is pretty amazing. So what they did is they collected samples of tap water, they boiled them for five minutes, they allowed them to cool, and then they measured the free-floating plastic content.

What they found was actually that the tap water that they were boiling was hard tap water, meaning that it has a lot of minerals in it. Those minerals will form this chalky substance that's known as limescale or calcium carbonate. So what they found was actually that in boiling, that calcium carbonate would form, but it would also encapsulate plastic particles, which I thought was really fascinating. Then from there, they're saying you could then pour the remaining water through a filter, even just something as simple as a coffee filter, just to make sure you're really getting any of those little encrustants out as well, that would take those microplastics with them. Again, it's with what you would call hard water. But they did also then try it with soft water. There's a certain threshold, and when it's under a certain amount of milligrams of calcium carbonate per liter, it's considered soft water. Boiling still removed around 25% of these nano-microplastics. So it's not 90%, but it's still something. Right?

Deboki: Yeah.

Sam: I have a lot of questions, just because they're not detecting microplastics… I always have questions when things are boiled about what original compounds break down into and questions about if there's still stuff that you're not detecting that's floating around that's potentially just as bad.

Deboki: Yeah. The thing I was thinking about while you were telling that story is just how much I usually think of hard water as not great. It gets stuck in your hair or it just leaves your hair feeling kind of greasy when you wash it. It doesn't taste very good. I don't usually like hard water, but now I'm like, maybe it's kind of useful, potentially.

Sam: Yeah, as long as you boil it. Right? Because if you're just drinking hard water with microplastics in it, it's still just hard water with microplastics in it.

Deboki: Right. Yeah, that's very true. So my Tiny Show and Tell for today was originally one that I was going to use a few weeks ago when we were doing our crossover episode with, That's Absurd, Please Elaborate, where they were telling us all about the fascinating history of lawns. We ended up not doing a Tiny Show and Tell for that episode, so I've been saving it. But I just wanted to bring that context because I want listeners to imagine that this was originally in an episode about lawns. Even though it's not strictly lawn related, I feel like the spirit of it is related to things that we were talking about in that episode. It's also about my other favorite things, which are niche hobbies and Massachusetts people being Massachusetts people, which there's another way to say that, but I don't think we can use those words in Tiny Matters.

Sam: <laughs> That's true. Yeah.

Deboki: So some background first. This article is from the Boston Globe, and it is about sea glass, which are weathered bits of glass that you can find around the beach, basically next to saltwater. It has a really frosted look to it. It's really beautiful. It often gets turned into jewelry and it often comes from bottles or other bits of glass that end up in the ocean and then they get weathered and frosted over time and just end up back on shore. They can also come in a lot of colors, which is really cool because people who are really into sea glass, get really into the history of the glass that makes these bits of sea glass. So they know a lot about all of these parts of consumer history. For example, yellow is really rare, apparently, and it's tied to Vaseline containers from the 1930s or something like that.

There's all sorts of weird, interesting bits of history that are tied into what then you get to see turning back up on the beach. So that's some background context for what sea glass is because I wasn't very familiar. This article is titled Marbles Ignite a War in Beachcombing, and it's because there is apparently this debate going on in the sea glass hunting community over an act that they call seeding, which is where you actually throw glass into the ocean so that it can become sea glass and in particular, this idea of seeding marbles. So as sea glass hunting has grown as a hobby, it has also led to this trend of people just throwing marbles out there into the ocean marbles.

Sam: Marbles. Why marbles?

Deboki: Yeah, so there's a few reasons for it. Apparently, marbles used to be really exciting for sea glass hunters to find because they were actually pretty rare. They're apparently tied to boardwalk games and stoppers that were used in glass bottles for carbonated drinks, but they also frost faster because they tumble around really easily in the ocean. So in New England, we have these rocky beaches. So while sea glass often takes a long time to form, marbles are faster because we just have this geography that makes it really easy for them to turn into that sea glass that people want to find. But of course, it means because this is a niche hobby and also it involves nature and stuff, there is now a battle going on between the purists, who think that seeding marbles is terrible and the non-purists, who don't think it's terrible.

So the pro-seeding people argue that good sea glass has been picked away basically over time, and so modern glass, in particular, is just not going to make the same quality of sea glass that the old stuff does. So these marbles are a way to get to having good sea glass again, I guess. Whereas the purists, they think of seeding marbles as just like littering. Then like I said, there is this historical context for a lot of the sea glass that people find. So I think the fact that people are now just sort of making sea glass in this way, feels like it's sort of removing what is a really cool part of this niche hobby for a lot of people where it's not like, oh, this interesting bit of consumer history. It's like, oh, someone just threw a marble into the ocean so that it would come back one day. This is more about niche hobbies than science, but obviously there's also this scientific aspect to it that I think is really cool. Yeah, I was really fascinated by this.

Sam: Yeah, that's so interesting. I know that people collect sea glass. I'm someone where if I see sea glass, I'll pick it up, but I didn't realize it was such an intense hobby. I also didn't know the history of marbles, like finding marbles on the seashore and those being such a prized thing and it makes sense. But yeah, there is drama everywhere.

Deboki: Thanks for tuning in to this week’s episode of Tiny Matters, a production of the American Chemical Society. This week’s script was written by Sam, who is also our executive producer, and was edited by me and by Michael David. It was fact-checked by Michelle Boucher. The Tiny Matters theme and episode sound design are by Michael Simonelli and the Charts & Leisure team.

Sam: Thanks so much to Deborah Blum for joining us.  Deborah is in the midst of working on a new book about female poisoners, set to come out next year. We’ve really only scratched the surface when it comes to poisons and their history so, hey, maybe Deborah will want to chat with us again in the future. If you have feedback or ideas for episodes you can always reach us at If you want to support the show, please give us a rating and review wherever you listen. You can also buy one of our coffee mugs! We’ve left a link in the episode description. You can find me on social at samjscience.

Deboki: And you can find me at okidokiboki. See you next time.