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Mark Siddall: In Praise Of Creepy, Crawly Things

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AMNH photo
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Mark Siddall is curator of invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History.

Editor's note: In September 2020, The New York Times reported that Mark Siddall was fired from the American Museum of Natural History because the museum found he sexually harassed and bullied a student.

Mark Siddall is a specialist in the kinds of things you probably hope stay the heck out of your house. Siddall is the curator of invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, and specializes in things like leeches and parasites — and also in the field of poisons and toxicology.

But he proves that even things we might think of as yucky or frightening can also be fascinating.

The kinds of things Siddall studies are the stuff of movies and television — weapons and instruments of danger in shows like Dexter and Breaking Bad. But Siddall says the idea of weaponizing biology goes all the way back to ancient Rome.

"The people in the city of Hatra had run out of things to throw at the Romans who were surrounding the city," he explains. "They actually sent people out at nighttime to gather up as many scorpions as they could at night, put them in clay pots, and flung those clay pots during the day time at those advancing Romans."

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