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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Mercury (metal)


Mercury, also known as quicksilver is a chemical element. It occurs in deposits throughout the world mostly as cinnabar (mercuric sulfide).

Mercury used to be called “hydrargyrum” (meaning “water- silver”.) The latter name is why its symbol is Hg.

Native mercury with cinnabar, Socrates mine, Sonoma County, California

In ancient China people thought using mercury would make them live longer and have better health. Qin Shi Huang (260 BC.E –210 BC), the first Emperor of China, was killed by drinking a mixture of mercury and powdered jade because he thought it was the key to immortality. However, this only made him die of liver failure, poisoning, and brain death.

Qin Shi Huang's tomb has not been explored partly because it is buried deep underground and surrounded by a moat of poisonous mercury.

It is believed the cruel Russian Czar, Ivan the Terrible, was unhinged by the mercury he took to cure the pain of chronic arthritis. He often foamed at the mouth like a rabid dog and tore clumps of hair out until his scalp bled.

In 1714, a German-Polish physicist, Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (May 24, 1686 – September 16, 1736), constructed the mercury thermometer, the first sealed thermometer. He'd discovered a method for cleaning mercury so that it would not stick to a glass tube, which enabled him to use this element rather than alcohol, which had given less accurate results.

Mercury-in-glass thermometer for measurement of room temperature.

Women (and men) used vermilion rouge in the eighteenth century at great risk. The beauty product was made of a sulfur and mercury compound, and caused the loss of teeth and inflamed gums.

Over 200 people died of mercury poisoning on the ship Triumph in 1810 because a barrel of mercury had leaked.

When Louisa Alcott contacted typhoid pneumonia, the doctors used calomel, a drug laden with mercury, to cure her. A side effect of her treatment was losing her hair and numerous mouth sores. The Little Women authoress never fully recovered her health.

The U.S. Department of Energy declassified documents on May 17, 1983 showed the world's largest mercury pollution event in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (ultimately found to be 4.2 million pounds), in response to the Appalachian Observer's Freedom of Information Act request.

Karen Wetterhahn was a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire who specialized in toxic metal exposure. She died on June 8, 1997 of mercury poisoning at the age of 48 within a year of exposure to merely two drops of dimethyl mercury on her gloved hand.


Mercury is made by roasting cinnabar in a furnace. The sulfide is oxidized to sulfur dioxide, leaving mercury behind.

In 2005, China was the top producer of mercury with almost two-thirds global share followed by Kyrgyzstan.

Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It solidifies at –39C.

Element mercury (Hg), liquid form.

Mercury is the heaviest known liquid element. It's so dense that bricks would float in it.

Due to the high amount of mercury in Lake Michigan, more than 40% of the fish are born autistic and do not survive their first year.

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