Superior Snakes

You don’t have to speak Parseltongue to appreciate the snakes in our collection. The Academy is home to snake specimens from all over the world. Ned Gilmore, the collection manager of herpetology at the Academy of Natural Sciences, takes us behind the scenes to get a look at some of the most impressive snakes in our collection.

Famous South American Bushmaster

Dr. Hering extracting venom from the snake
From Life and Reminiscences of Dr. Constantine Hering by Arthur Maynard Eastman

Two of the more famous snakes in our collection are the South American bushmasters. These particular specimens are known for their role in the history of homeopathy. Constantine Hering, an early pioneer of homeopathy, used these snakes to extract the venom he used to develop the homeopathic remedy called Lachesis.

Hering originally studied the work of Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy, in order to disprove its legitimacy. Instead, he became one of homeopathy’s most influential contributors. He obtained these bushmaster snakes, milked the venom from them, and experienced the first proving of Lachesis when he accidentally ingested some of the venom.

In 1830, Hering donated the specimens to the Academy’s collection, and shortly after he helped to found the Philadelphia Medical College of Homeopathy. These specimens are still famous to the homeopathic medicine community today.

“The people that study homeopathic medicine had a convention in Philadelphia,” Gilmore recalls.
“They had their dinner here in the museum, and they all lined up to get their picture taken with the snakes.”

Record-breaking Ball Python

Record breaking ball python
The skull of the record-holding ball python (Python regius)

“Now this isn’t too widely publicized, but we have a ball python that is known to be the oldest snake in captivity,” Gilmore explains. The life expectancy of a ball python is about 25 years, but the Academy’s specimen nearly doubled that number during its years on Earth.

The Philadelphia Zoo received this snake from an animal dealer in 1945, and it lived there for 48 years, setting the longevity record for a ball python in captivity. Upon the snake’s death in 1992, the Zoo donated it to the Academy. We preserved the snake’s skin and skeleton, which are both a part of our herpetology Collection.

Snakes and Wizards

Meet live snakes at Wild Wizarding Weekend!


Want to learn more about the snakes in our collection?

Explore the magical world of the Academy with a weekend of spellbinding, hands-on activities at our Wild Wizarding Weekend! Meet the Academy’s own fantastic beasts and learn about the real animals that inspire your favorite wizarding stories. Take in a Bunnies and Broomsticks game, make a magic wand, take home your own special blend of tea leaves to read, and much more! Wear a costume and get a $2 discount at the door or save when you purchase online.

Free for members or with general museum admission.

Not a member? Buy your tickets today.

Post by Liyah Desher

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