A few days ago I posted my review of Deborah Blum’s fascinating science history book The Poisoner’s Handbook (my review of the book is here). I’d put the book at the top of my reading pile partly because I’d heard PBS was poised to broadcast a new documentary/docudrama production of the book as part of its series American Experience.
I loved the book and rounded up the whole family to watch the TV program.
Yay! PBS did a marvelous job. The TV version is a wonderful adaptation of the book. Neither format is “better” than the other. The TV version includes the most fascinating stories from the book, but obviously explores them in less depth. I enjoyed every minute of watching the show after reading the book. My teenage daughter loved the show, and now plans to read the book.
Educators involved in either science or American history would do well to show this production to their students. It has just enough gruesome touches and tales to engage young teens (and up) and opens viewer’s minds to a time when poisons were ubiquitous in every city and every home–hard to imagine from our present point of view.
Much to my satisfaction, The Poisoner’s Handbook also glorifies scientists. We need more engaging video productions which do this.