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List of poisonings

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This is a list of poisonings in chronological order of victim. It also includes confirmed attempted and fictional poisonings. Many of the people listed here committed or attempted to commit suicide by poison; others were poisoned by others.



Confirmed poisonings

  • Socrates (d. 399 BC) , Greek philosopher — According to Plato, sentenced to kill himself by drinking poison hemlock
  • Demosthenes (d. 322 BC) Athenian politician
  • Aratus of Sicyon (d. 213 BC), tyrant of Sicyon
  • Antipater the Idumaean (d. 43 BC), father of Herod the Great
  • Cleopatra VII of Egypt (d. 30 BC), poisoned herself with an asp’s bite
  • Julius Caesar Drusus (d. 23), son of Tiberius
  • Emperor Hui of Jin China (d. 304)
  • Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 661), caliph
  • Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz (d. 720), umayyad caliph
  • Musa al-Kazim (d. 799), Shia Imam
  • Romanus II (d. 963), Byzantine Emperor
  • Alan III, Duke of Brittany (d. 1040)
  • Constance of Normandy (d. 1090), daughter of King William I of England
  • Constantine II of Armenia (d. 1129)
  • Alphonse I, Count of Toulouse (d. 1148)
  • Baldwin III of Jerusalem (d. 1162)
  • Blanche of Bourbon (d. 1361), first wife of King Pedro of Castile
  • Louis, Count of Gravina (d. 1362)
  • Robert, Count of Eu (d. 1387)
  • Ladislaus, King of Naples (d. 1414)
  • Margaret Drummond (d. 1502), mistress of King James IV of Scotland
  • Timoji (d.1512), Hindu privateer and Portuguese ally
  • Juan Ponce de León (d. 1521), Spanish conquistador; after being wounded by a poisoned arrow
  • Pope Clement VII (d. 1534), ate the death cap mushroom
  • Eric XIV, King of Sweden (d. 1577), by arsenic hidden in pea soup.
  • Yamada Nagamasa (d. 1630), Japanese adventurer
  • Bradford sweets poisoning (1858)
  • Olive Thomas (d. 1920), Silent film actress, accidentally ingested a large dose of mercury bichloride
  • Nestor Lakoba (d. 1936), Abkhaz Communist leader, was poisoned by NKVD chef Lavrenti Beria
  • Abram Slutsky (d.1938), head of Soviet spy service, poisoned with hydrogen cyanide by NKVD
  • Nikolai Koltsov (d. 1940), famous Russian biologist, was poisoned by secret police NKVD
  • Erwin Rommel (d. 1944) German general
  • Adolf Hitler (d. 1945) cyanide and gunshot simultaneously before capture
  • Eva Braun (d. 1945) suicide by cyanide capsule at Hitler's side as his wife
  • The Goebbels children (d. 1945), poisoned by their parents Magda and Joseph Goebbels (who then killed themselves shortly afterwards by poison and gun shots before capture)
  • Heinrich Himmler (d. 1945), leader of the Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS); suicide by cyanide capsule after being captured
  • Odilo Globocnik (d. 1945)
  • Hermann Göring (d.1946), leader of the Nazi Luftwaffe; suicide by cyanide capsule, long after being captured and only hours before his hanging was to take place
  • Alan Turing (d. 1954), British mathematician — Apparently committed suicide by painting an apple with cyanide and taking a bite.
  • Clare Boothe Luce (1956) — Fell ill but did not die; arsenic poisoning
  • Stepan Bandera (d. 1959) poisoned by a cyanide capsule shot from a gun by KGB agents
  • Georgi Markov (d. 1978), Bulgarian dissident, — Assassinated in London with ricin
  • Peoples Temple cult-members, perhaps over 900 of them, (1978); killed by cyanide-laced punch at Jonestown.
  • Love Canal (up to 1978) — Buried toxic waste was covered and used as a building site for housing and school in Niagara Falls, New York, resulting in claims of chronic poisoning and a massive environmental cleanup.
  • Bhopal Disaster (1984) — An accidental release of poisonous gas from a pesticide plant in India that killed over 2,000 people and injured many more.
  • Matsumoto incident, June 27, 1994, sarin gas attack carried out by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult. 7 killed, approximately 200 injured.
  • Sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, March 20, 1995, carried out by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult. 12 killed, 1034 injured.
  • Marshall Applewhite (d. 1997); cult suicide
  • Ibn al-Khattab (d. 2002), a Sunni Jihadi fighter, died from a poisoned letter sent by Russian FSB agency
  • Alexander Litvinenko (d. 2006), Russian ex-spy and investigator, died three weeks after being poisoned by radioactive polonium-210
  • Roman Tsepov (d. 2004), Russian businessman poisoned by unspecified radioactive material

Attempted poisonings

  • Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic, survived being poisoned with potassium cyanide, as well as being shot, bludgeoned, and being thrown into a frozen river before he finally died by drowning.
  • Khaled Meshal, Hamas Leader, survived being poisoned by Israeli assassins. The King of Jordan ordered the capture of the assassins, two of which were caught, and an antidote was supplied by Israel for their release.
  • Nikolay Khokhlov was poisoned by radioactive thallium Germany in 1957 for refusing to work as a KGB assassin
  • Zhu Ling, Chinese university student poisoned with thallium in 1995. Suspect never charged.
  • Anna Politkovskaya was poisoned during her flight to Beslan in 2004

Possible poisonings

  • Alexander the Great
  • Barbara Radziwiłł (d. 1551), Queen of Poland
  • Boudica, Queen of the Iceni and leader of the rebellion against Roman rule in Britain, suicide by poison according to Tacitus; Dio Cassius claims natural illness
  • Charles Darwin — possibly died due to self-medication with Fowler's solution, one percent potassium arsenite
  • Claudius (d. 54), Roman Emperor, by his wife Agrippina the Younger
  • Germanicus (d. 19), Roman general
  • Huo Yuanjia (d. 1910), wushu master and Chinese national hero, arsenic
  • Jamestown colonists — Standard historical accounts claim deaths by starvation, but the possibility of arsenic poisoning by rat poison (or of death by Bubonic plague) has also been reported (see here)
  • King John of England, with plums
  • Mithridates VI of Pontus
  • Napoleon Bonaparte — some claim he was killed by someone on his staff with arsenic. Evidence is inconclusive.
  • Pope Benedict XI (d. 1304)
  • Pope Pius VIII (d. 1830)
  • Ptolemy XIV of Egypt (d. 44 BC), if so, by his sister Cleopatra
  • Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury (d. 1612)
  • Tycho Brahe (d. 1601), Danish astronomer
  • Stefan Dusan (d. 1355), Serbian king
  • John Gallagher Montgomery (d. 1857), U.S. Congressman from Pennsylvania
  • Maxim Gorky (d. 1936), Russian writer. NKVD chef Genrikh Yagoda admitted at the Trial of the Twenty One that he ordered to poison Gorky and his son.
  • Robert Johnson (d. 1938), American musician
  • Raoul Wallenberg (d. presumably in 1947), a Swedish humanitarian, who save tens of thousands of Jews in World War II, was reportedly poisoned in Lubyanka prison by Grigory Mairanovsky
  • Joseph Stalin (d. 1953) — Officially cerebral hemorrhage; but, according to Vyacheslav Molotov's memoirs and historians Radzinsky and Antonov-Ovseenko, Stalin was poisoned by Lavrenty Beria
  • Pope John Paul I (d. 1978) (unconfirmed)
  • Yuri Shchekochikhin (d. 2003), Russian investigative journalist, died presumably from poisoning by radioactive thallium
  • Yasser Arafat (d. 2004) — Arafat reputedly died from liver cirrhosis, which may be a consequence of chronic alcohol use or poisoning. Some Arafat supporters feel it is unlikely that Arafat habitually used alcohol (forbidden by Islam), and so suspect poisoning. However, it is also important to note that cirrhosis is not necessarily caused by alcohol use, or indeed any poison at all.
  • Ardeshir Hosseinpour (d. 2007), Iranian nuclear scientist, possibly poisoned/assassinated by Mossad: death by "radioactive poisoning" or "gas poisoning" [1] [2] [3] (unconfirmed)
  • Viktor Yushchenko, Ukrainian politician, possibly poisoned with dioxin during the 2004 electoral campaign.
  • Eric Kinker, Expert hunter, bit by coral snake. Central Florida, 2007.

Notorious poisoners

  • Dr John Bodkin Adams, British doctor acquitted in 1957 but suspected of killing 163 patients via morphia and barbiturates.[1]
  • Members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan in the 1990s often used poisons for murder, including chemical weapons such as VX and Sarin.
  • Thomas Neill Cream (d. 1892), British serial killer.
  • Anna Marie Hahn (executed 1938), American serial killer.
  • Grigory Mairanovsky, who received Soviet PhD degree for testing poisons on political prisoners
  • Vera Renczi, Romanian serial killer who used arsenic to kill two husbands, a son and thirty-two suitors.
  • Charles Sobhraj, a serial killer who preyed on Western tourists throughout Southeast Asia during the 1970s.
  • Michael Swango, American physician and surgeon, who fatally poisoned at least thirty of his patients and colleagues.
  • Graham Frederick Young (d. 1990), British serial killer.
  • Harold Shipman (d. 2004), English general practitioner and one of the most prolific known serial killers in modern history


Due to the plot strength of poisoning in crime fiction, this is an inexhaustive list.


Crime fiction
  • Anthony Berkeley: The Poisoned Chocolates Case
  • Ann Granger: Say It With Poison
  • Francis Iles: Before the Fact (filmed as Suspicion)
  • Francis Iles: Malice Aforethought
  • Agatha Christie: Three Act Tragedy
  • Agatha Christie: A Pocket Full of Rye
  • Agatha Christie: Crooked House
  • Agatha Christie: And Then There Were None
  • John Dickson Carr: The Burning Court
  • John Dickson Carr: The Black Spectacles (US title The Problem of the Green Capsule)
  • Raymond Postgate: Verdict of Twelve
  • Freeman Wills Crofts: The 12.30 from Croydon
  • Ann Granger: Say It With Poison
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
  • Dorothy Sayers: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
  • Dorothy Sayers: Strong Poison
  • Rex Stout: Fer-de-Lance
  • Rex Stout: The Red Box
  • Rex Stout: Black Orchids
  • Cornell Woolrich: Waltz into Darkness (filmed as Mississippi Mermaid and Original Sin)
Other fiction
  • Alexandre Dumas, père: The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers
  • Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary
  • Kaori Yuki: Count Cain (GodChild after vol. 5) Protagonist Cain Hargreaves is known as the Count/Earl of Poisons. He has quite a collection of poisons, and frequently solves murder cases, almost all of which involve poisons.
  • Romeo suicide by poison in Romeo and Juliet
  • Snow White ate a poisoned apple
  • Vladimir Harkonnen of Dune
  • unsuccessful poisoning of Ron Weasley in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. The intended victim was Albus Dumbledore
  • David Eddings' Mallorean. The Emperor Zakath of Mallorea is poisoned with thalot, and cured by Adara's Rose, called by Cyradis, the Seeress of Kell, the "universal remedy". In The Elenium, the Primate Annias poisons Queen Ehlana with Darestim, so he can have access to her treasury to fund his campaign of becoming Archprelate. Her champion, Sparhawk, and his companions find the magical jewel Bhelliom to cure her. It is later revealed that Ehlana's father King Aldreas was killed with the same poison, given to him by his sister, with whom he was romantically involved.


  • D.O.A.
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • The Young Poisoner's Handbook
  • Jill Tracy- The Fine Art of Poisoning
  • Crank


  • Joseph Kesselring: Arsenic and Old Lace
  • Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet
  • Hamlet, King Claudius, Gertrude and Laertes, characters in William Shakespeare’s tragedy Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
  • Imogen, in William Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline


  1. ^ Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9

See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "List_of_poisonings". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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