Wednesday, October 28, The Beacon, 2pm: Whodunit expert Agatha Christie used poison to bump off her characters more often than any other murder method – but how is it that some compounds prove so deadline in such tiny amounts?
Christie’s choice of deadly substances was far from random – the chemical and physiological characteristics of each poison provided vital clues to the discovery of the murderer.
With gunshots or stabbings the cause of death is obvious – but not so with poisons.
In A is for Arsenic, Christie fan and chemist Dr Kathryn Harkup investigates the poisons the murderer used and looks at why certain chemicals kill, how they interact with the body and the feasibility of obtaining, administering and detecting these poisons, both at the time the novels were written and today.
Christie’s extensive chemical knowledge was mostly gleaned from working in a chemists during both world wars – but the reader rarely appreciates this.
A is for Arsenic was published as part of the 125th anniversary celebration of Christie’s birth.
Dr Kathryn Harkup completed a doctorate on her favourite chemicals, phosphines, and went on to further postdoctoral research before realising that talking, writing and demonstrating science appealed a bit more than hours slaving over a hot fume-hood.
She used to write talks on science tops that would appeal to bored teenagers – anything disgusting or dangerous was usually the most popular.
Harkup is now a freelance science communicator delivering talks and workshops on the quirky side of science.
Wednesday, October 28. The Beacon. 2pm £6
Click here to book online via Tickets Oxford.
Online booking closes on October 22.