Mercury (element)

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Pouring liquid mercury bionerd.jpg

Mercury (element) is a chemical element with symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is commonly known as quicksilver and was formerly named hydrargyrum (/haɪˈdrɑrdʒərəm/). A heavy, silvery d-block element, mercury is the only metallic element that is liquid at standard conditions for temperature and pressure; the only other element that is liquid under these conditions is bromine, though metals such as caesium, gallium, and rubidium melt just above room temperature.

Quotes[edit]

Scarily, cadmium is not even the worst poison among the elements. It sits above mercury, a neurotoxin. And to the right of mercury sit the most horrific mug shots on the periodic tablethallium, lead, and polonium—the nucleus of poisoner’s corridor. - Sam Kean
  • Mercury doesn't contribute its valence electrons readily to the soup [electron soup]. The thinner soup can't bind the mercury atoms together very strongly. Mercury atoms easily slip past and away from each other. Heat easily overcomes the weak binding between mercury atoms, and mercury boils and melts at lower temperatures than any other metal. Because the valence electron soup is thinner for mercury, its electrical and thermal conductivity are poor.
Neurotoxins found in a number of organisms, including some strains of cyanobacteria...Today, we recognize that mercury is a neurotoxin and that high levels of exposure can lead to serious illness and, in extreme cases, death. Since the 1950s and 1960s, a growing body of scientific evidence has suggested that mercury emissions from human activities, called anthropogenic emissions, are having widespread impacts on environmental and human health.
  • The astronomical symbol of Mercury [] can be traced to a medieval Greek manuscript where it takes the form?. The horizontal cross is a modern addition. The "horns" at the top of the symbol represent the wings of this speedy planet It is from the use of the name Hermes for Mercury that the usage of Hermean for characteristics of Mercury became popular during the 19th century and continues to be used by some today.

Discovery of the elements[edit]

It is a fluid
but does not moisten,
and runs about,
though it has no feet. - A. E. Waite.

In : Discovery of the elements, Journal of Chemical Education, Easton, p. 47-51

  • It is a fluid
    but does not moisten,
    and runs about,
    though it has no feet.
    • A. E. Waite in: "The Hermetic and Alchemical Writings of … Paracelsus the Great," James Elliott and Co., London, 1894, Vol. 1, pp. 136, 254-5, 314, quoted in: p. 47
Elemental Mercury-Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus, and has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1500 or 1600 B.C. Dioscorides mentioned its preparation from cinnabar, while Pliny gave a method of purifying it by squeezing it through leather, and stated that it is poisonous.... - E. O. Von Lippmann.
  • Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus, and has been found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 1500 or 1600 B.C. Dioscorides mentioned its preparation from cinnabar, while Pliny gave a method of purifying it by squeezing it through leather, and stated that it is poisonous. Earle R. Caley has shown by quotations from Aristotle, Theophrastus, Dioscorides, Pliny the Elder, Vitruvius, and the Leyden Papyrus of the third century A.D. that mercury has been known much longer than most persons realize. He states that cinnabar was probably the only mercury compound known to the ancients and that they used it both as a pigment and as a source of the metal. In his "Metallurgic Chemistry," C. E. Gellert (1713-1795) stated that “The only ore of mercury hitherto known is native cinnabar". The most ancient specimen of quicksilver known is probably that which H. Schliemann found in a little cocoanut-shaped amulet in an Egyptian tomb at Kurna dating from the fifteenth or sixteenth century B.C.
    • E. O. Von Lippmann and H. Schelenz in "Geschichte der Pharmazie," J. Springer, Berlin, 1904, p. 41, quoted in: p. 47
Theophrastus, a disciple of Plato and successor to Aristotle, described quicksilver as a useful substance "obtained from native Cinnabar, rubbed with Vinegar in a brass Mortar with a brass Pestle. - John Hill.
  • Theophrastus, a disciple of Plato and successor to Aristotle, described quicksilver as a useful substance "obtained from native Cinnabar, rubbed with Vinegar in a brass Mortar with a brass Pestle.
    • John Hill in: "Theophrastus's History of Stones," and KOPP, H., Vol. 4, p. 172 and Benjamin Martin in "Biographia Philosophica," W. Owen, London, 1764, quoted in: p. 48
  • The factitious cinnabar is from the country a little above Ephesus; it is but in small quantities, and is had only from one place. It is only a sand, shining like scarlet, which they collect, and rub to a very fine powder, in vessels of stone only, and afterwards wash in other vessels of brass, or sometimes of wood: What subsides they go to work on again, rubbing it and washing it as before.
    • Theophrastus in DARMSTAEDTER, LUDWIG, "Handbuch zur Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften^ und der Technik," J. Springer, Berlin, 1908, p. 18., quoted in: p. 48
  • One Callius, an Athenian, who belonged to the silver mines, invented and taught the making of this artificial Cinnabar. He had carefully got together a great Quantity of this sand, imagining from its shining appearance that it contained gold: But when he had found that it did not, and had had an opportunity, in his trials, admiring the beauty of its colour, he invented and brought into use this preparation of it. And this is no old thing, the invention being only of about ninety years date; Praxibulus being at this time in the Government of Athens.
    • Theophrastus in Biringuccio's Pirotechnia (1540) in "Zinc, cadmium, and mercury. A classic of science," Sci. News Letter, 19, 76-7 (Jan. 31, 1931), quoted in:p.48
In the first century A.D., Dioscorides Pedanios of Anazarbus, Cilicia, gave the following process for preparing metallic mercury: Putting an iron spoon having Cinnabaris in an earthen pot,... -R. T. Gunther.
  • In the first century A.D., Dioscorides Pedanios of Anazarbus, Cilicia, gave the following process for preparing metallic mercury: Putting an iron spoon having Cinnabaris in an earthen pot, they cover the cup, darwing it about with clay, then they make a fire under with coals; and ye soot that sticks to ye pot, being scraped off & cooled, becomes Hydrargyrum [mercury]. It is found also in ye place where silver is melted, standing together by drops on ye roofs. And some say that Hydrargyrum is found by itself in ye mines. But it is kept in glassen, or leaden, or tinnen, or silver vessels, for it eats through all other matter, and makes it run out.
    • R. T. Gunther, "The Greek Herbal of Dioscorides," Oxford University Press, JAGNAUX, R., "Histoire de la Chimie,", Vol. 2, p. 366., quoted in: p. 48
  • Many do not even know that mercury comes out of cinnabar (tan sha). When told, they still refuse to believe it, saying that cinnabar is red, and how can it produce a white substance? They also say that cinnabar is a stone that stones when heated turn to ashes: and how then can anything else be expected of tan sha?
    • Ko Hung (281-361 A.D.) in “Pao Pu Tzu" and Davis, Tenney L. Davis, Tenney in "Remarks on the value of historical studies," Report of New England Assoc. of Chem. Teachers, May, 1930, p. 5., Quoted in: p. 48
  • Natural cinnabar consists of much mercury and some sulfur and earth; these three together make a hard body, a very beautiful red color varying in brightness according to the purity of the ore and the place where it is found. It is brought to us from different localities, as from Transylvania and Hungary and from many places in Germany; the handsomest, however, is found in Carinthia.
    • Christophe Glaser in "Chymischer Wegweiser," Matthaus Birckner, Jena and Helmstadt, 1696, pp. 264-5, quoted in:p.49
The mercury mines of Almaden had been worked for at least 2287 years and that cinnabar from them was sent to ancient Rome in the form of powder or sand.... - J. M. Hoppensack
  • The mercury mines of Almaden had been worked for at least 2287 years and that cinnabar from them was sent to ancient Rome in the form of powder or sand. A. de Galvez Canero believed that the Spanish mercury mines have been worked since the third or fourth century B.C. (28).
    • J. M. Hoppensack (1795) quoting A. De Galvez-Canero in "La Metalurgia de la Plata y del Mercuric. Bosquejo Historico," IX Congreso Internacional de Ouimica Pura y Aplicada, Madrid 1934, 37 pp, quoted in p. 49
He was surprised to find that the crops, trees, and inhabitants were not injured by the fumes, and that springs near the mine yielded good potable water. The slaves who worked and ate in the mine however suffered severely from mercury poisoning. - A.Jussieu
  • He was surprised to find that the crops, trees, and inhabitants were not injured by the fumes, and that springs near the mine yielded good potable water. The slaves who worked and ate in the mine however suffered severely from mercury poisoning.
    • A.Jussieu in "Beobachtungen, wie man in den Minen von Almaden in Spanien verfahrt, um das Quecksilber zu gewinnen; und iiber die Krankheiten der Arbeiter in denselben," Crell's Neues chem. Archiv, 2, 22-31 (1784); "Mem. de 1'acad. roy. des sciences (Paris)/' 1719, p. 461, quoted in: p. 49
  • The Incas labored long in the [[[Peru]]vian mercury mines without knowing what quicksilver was, seeking only cinnabar, or vermilion to use as war paint.
    • Father Jose De Costa in "Natural and Moral History of the Indies”, quoted in p. 49
  • The Spaniards discovered the mercury mines of Huancavelica in 1566-67. The red substance llimpi with which the Indians used to paint their faces was the same as the Castilian vermilion. After the mines of Palcas in the territory of Guamanga had been discovered in this way, much of the mercury obtained from them was shipped to Mexico to be used in the refining of silver]].
    • Father Jose De Acosta, Vol. 1, pp. 185, 214-7. English translation of Edward Grimston, 1604 quoted in p. 49-50
There was very little use or consumption of quicksilver before the beginning of this new Silver age in the world, then they only wasted it in Mercury sublimate,... - A. A. Barba
  • There was very little use or consumption of quicksilver before the beginning of this new Silver age in the world, then they only wasted it in Mercury sublimate, Cinabrio, or Vermillion, and the powders made thereof called Precipitate, which are also called in Spain the powders of Juanes de Vigo, which have been used to such mischievous purposes that the world was said to have too much of them, although in bulk and quantity then they had but little; but since it hath been used to collect the Silver together out of Oar, which is ground small (an invention which the Ancients had scarcely arrived to, and practised it but very little), it is incredible how great a quantity is consumed by the Founders of Metals of this Kingdom: for if the abundance of Silver that hath gone out of this Kingdom hath filled the world with riches and admiration, by it may be estimated the consumption and loss of Quicksilver, which after a most extravagant expense thereof at first, being now by good experience regulated within terms of moderation, is found to be equal in weight to the Silver extracted; and very seldom that the waste is so little.
    • A. A. Barba of Bolivia (1640) in "Arte de los Metales," the first treatise on American metallurgy, quoted in: p. 50
Amalgam of Mercury and Silver - … The discovery of the great mercury mine is generally attributed to the Indian, Gonzalo Abincopa, or Navincopa; but it certainly occurred long before the year 1567, for even the Incas used cinnabar [llimpi] for their cosmetics, getting it from the mountains of Palcas. The working of the mine on Mt. Santa Barbara, for the crown, did not begin until about the month of September in 1570, the year in which Fernandez de Velasco introduced Mexican amalgamation into Peru. - Baron Alexander von Humboldt
  • The famous mine of Huancavelica is located on Mount Santa Barbara, south of the city of Huancavelica.... The discovery of the great mercury mine is generally attributed to the Indian, Gonzalo Abincopa, or Navincopa; but it certainly occurred long before the year 1567, for even the Incas used cinnabar [llimpi] for their cosmetics, getting it from the mountains of Palcas. The working of the mine on Mt. Santa Barbara, for the crown, did not begin until about the month of September in 1570, the year in which Fernandez de Velasco introduced Mexican amalgamation into Peru.
    • Baron Alexander von Humboldt, in his "Political Essay on New Spain," A.A. Barba, in "The Art of Metals/' S. Mearne, London, 1674, pp. 140-1, and A. Von Humboldt in "Ensayo politico sobre Nueva Espafia," Lecointe, Paris, 1836, Vol. 3, pp. 204-17, quoted in: P.50
  • Indians living near the old Santa Clara Mission, about fifty miles from the present city of San Francisco, California, used to apply red and yellow pigments from the "Cave of the Red Earth" near there for personal adornment. In 1845 aptain Andres Castillero of the Mexican Army, who had studied chemistry and metallurgy at the College of Mines in Mexico City, discovered near the Santa Clara Mission an ore in which he easily detected metallic mercury. When Don Manuel Herrera of that College of Mines analyzed specimens of this ore he found an average mercury content of 35.5 per cent and reported that some pieces were practically pure cinnabar.
    • Dr. Henry M. Leicester in “The history of the New Almaden Mine in California in the Journal of Chemical Education and M. Henry Leicester, in "The New Almaden Mine. The first chemical industry in California," Chem. Educ., 20, 235-8 (May, 1943 ), quoted in p. 51
  • When gold was discovered near Sutter's Fort, California, in 1848 the operation of the gold mines that were opened up during the "gold rush of '49" was greatly facilitated by the nearby supply of mercury for amalgamation.
    • In: P.51
A method for preparing a rather pure mercurous chloride (calomel) was known to Parisian physicians before 1608. - George Urdang
  • A method for preparing a rather pure mercurous chloride (calomel) was known to Parisian physicians before 1608.
    • George Urdang in "The early chemical and pharmaceutical history of calomel," Chymia, 1, 93-108 (1948) quoted in p. 51
  • Tyrocinium Chymicum a "mild sublimate" was made by rubbing corrosive sublimate with as much mercury as could be "killed" or made to combine with it.
    • Jean Beguin, Thomas Thomson in "Calomel," Annals of Philos., 16, 309-10 (Oct., 1820) and T. Bergman in "Schluss der Geschichte von der Veremigung des Quecksilbers, quoted in: p. 51
The bright vermilion murals in the Villa of Mysteries in Pompeii (before 79 AD) - Calomel, corrosive sublimate, and vermilion have been manufactured for centuries at Hankow, China. Chemists of India prepared both chlorides of mercury as early as the twelfth century.... -Sir P.C. Ray.
  • The Freezing of Mercury: Until the middle of the eighteenth century, chemists believed that fluidity was an essential property of mercury. During a blizzard on the twenty-fifth of December, 1759, A. Braune (or Braun) and M. V. Lomonosov of the Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburg thought it would be interesting to see how much farther the temperature could be lowered by artificial means. In the presence of several fellow members of the Academy, they packed a mercury thermometer in a mixture of nitric acid and snow. The mercury fell rapidly and solidified.
    • In Poissonnier, "Versuche iiber frierende Quecksilber," Crell's Neues chem and Archiv, 8, 176-7 (1791); Hist. Acad. Roy. des Sciences (Paris), 1760, quoted in: p. 49.

Mercury, ultra trace analysis[edit]

Sulphur Bank Mine was one of the most noted mercury producers in the world. - ...mercury use, as well as many of its treatment techniques are in fact as ancient as the Pharaohs and the Romans; and while recorded history proves that the Egyptians followed by the Greeks and Romans used mercury for cosmetic and medical preparations over five thousand years ago; we are now taking about ppt level, which mocks the expression “splitting hair”.
Dark red bands of cinnabar alternate with layers of tan limonite. The corderoite are the yellow-tan microcrystals. - Mercury minerals in ore deposits in nature consist mainly of corderiote (Hg3S2CL2), livingstonite (HgSb4S7), montroydite (HgO), terlinguaite (Hg2OCL), cinnabar HgS, calomel Hg2CL2, coloradoite HgTe, and teimannite HgSe.
Claude Galien - The toxicity of mercury is not a recent discovery either. Galen, who died about 200AD wrote about the toxicity of mercurials. As to the therapeutic uses of mercury compounds the “Chemical technology reference” makes this statement: “...in the 13th century, as a result of Arabian influence, such therapeutic uses of mercury were finally recognized by Western Europe. Some of these uses are specially supported by recorded history in Egypt 5000 years ago and, in China and India dating over 4000 years ago

Dr Paul Gouda in: Mercury, ultra trace analysis, iUniverse, Jun 19, 2013

  • ...mercury use, as well as many of its treatment techniques are in fact as ancient as the Pharaohs and the Romans; and while recorded history proves that the Egyptians followed by the Greeks and Romans used mercury for cosmetic and medical preparations over five thousand years ago; we are now taking about ppt level, which mocks the expression “splitting hair”.
    • In: p. 14
  • Mercury dissolves many other metals such as gold and silver to form amalgams. Iron is an exception and iron flasks have been traditionally used to transfer mercury.
    • In: p. 14
  • Mercury readily combines with aluminum upon contact, to form a mamagam that destroys Aluminium oxide layer which protects metallic aluminum from oxidizing in-depth.
    • In: p. 14
  • Mercury exists in two oxidation states: mercurous (valence+1) and mercuric (valence+2). Organic compounds of weak reducing activity such as amines, aldehydes, and ketones often break Mercury compounds to compounds of lower oxidation state and metal.
    • In: p. 15
  • Isotopes: There are seven stable isotopes of mercury with 202Hg being the most abundant (29.86%). The longest-lived radioistopes are 194Hg with a half-life of 444 years, and 203Hg with a halflife of 46.612 days. Most of the remaining radioisotopes have half-lives that are less than a day.
    • In: p. 23
  • The toxicity of mercury is not a recent discovery either. [[w:Galen|Galen, who died about 200AD wrote about the toxicity of mercurials. As to the therapeutic uses of mercury compounds the “Chemical technology reference” makes this statement: “...in the 13th century, as a result of Arabian influence, such therapeutic uses of mercury were finally recognized by Western Europe. Some of these uses are specially supported by recorded history in Egypt 5000 years ago and, in China and India dating over 4000 years ago.
    • In: p. 23
  • Inorganic mercury compounds are formed when mercury combines with elements other than carbon, such as chlorine, sulfur, or oxygen. Elemental mercury is a form of inorganic mercury.
    • In: p. 50
  • Organic compounds of mercury, are known in which mercury is bound directly to oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur. In oxygen-linked compounds, the mercury generally behaves as in inorganic salts. Compounds containing a N-Hg link will be formed if you allow for a reaction of mercuric salts or alkyl and arylmercuri-compounds with amines and amides.
    • In: p. 62
  • Atmosphere/air: Air samples are collected when mercury pollution is believed to be present in the atmosphere or indoor environment. Since mercury concentrations in the atmosphere vary greatly, sampling points must be selected in order to clarify the mercury distribution with consideration given to prevailing winds and the distance from the contamination source.
    • In: p. 64
  • Blood: For people who eat large quantities of fish and shellfish, the mercury concentration ratio of red blood cells to plasma (serum) is approximately 10:1, and most mercury contained in the red blood cells is in the form of methylmercury; therefore, methylmercury exposure can be evaluated by measuring total mercury in blood. It is believed that 50% of inorganic mercury is present in the plasma and the mercury concentration in the plasma increases in relation to the amount of inorganic mercury accumulated in the kidneys.
    • In: p. 64

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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