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Biographical entry Worrell, Eric Arthur Frederic (1924 - 1987)

27 October 1924
Granville, New South Wales, Australia
13 July 1987
Wyoming, New South Wales, Australia
Herpetologist and Naturalist


Eric Worrell was a herpetologist and naturalist renowned for his role in the development of antivenenes and for establishing the Australian Reptile Park. In 1950 he set up the Ocean Beach Aquarium on the New South Wales central coast which provided a base for his research on reptiles. Using his skill at milking snakes he became a major supplier of venom from tiger snakes and taipans to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories for the development of antivenenes. The Australian Reptile Park was opened to the public in 1959. Here Worrell expanded his venom-producing activities to include other Australian and exotic snakes and the Sydney Funnel-web Spider. Between 1950 and 1975 he published eleven books, including Dangerous Snakes of Australia (1952). Worrell published prolifically in popular magazines, including under pseudonyms., and made significant contributions to reptile taxonomy and systematics. His Reptiles of Australia (1963) was the first book to deal comprehensively with the Australian reptile fauna



Award - Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE )
Award - National Australia Bank humanitarian award for contribution to the development of antivenom for the Sydney Funnel-web Spider

Published resources


  • Markwell, Kevin and Cushing, Nancy, Snake-bitten: Eric Worrell and the Australian Reptile Park, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney, 2010, 240 pp. Details

Book Sections

  • Markwell, Kevin and Cushing, Nancy, 'Worrell, Eric Arthur Frederic (1924-1987), naturalist and Herpetologist', in Australian Dictionary of Biography, vol. 18, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne, 2012, pp. 634-5. Details

Journal Articles

  • Cushing, N. and Markwell, K., 'Balancing biography and institutional history: Eric Worrell's Australian Reptile Park', Public History Review, vol. 19, 2009, pp. 78-91. Details
  • Sutherland, Struan, 'Eric Worrell', Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 148, no. 151, 1988, p. 15. Details

Online Resources

See also

  • Hobbins, Peter G., '"Immunisation is as Popular as a Death Adder": the Bundaberg Tragedy and the Political Deployment of Medical Science in Interwar Australia', Social History of Medicine, vol. 24, no. 2, 2011, pp. 426-44, Details
  • Mirtschin, Peter, 'The Pioneers of Venom Production for Australian Antivenoms', Toxicon, vol. 48, no. 7, 2009, pp. 899-918. Details
  • Williams, David, Wuester, Wolfgang and Fry, Bryan Grieg, 'The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Australian Snake Taxonomists and a history of the Taxonomy of Australia's Venomous Snakes ', Toxicon, vol. 48, no. 7, 2009, pp. 919-930. Details

Helen Cohn