On the periodic table, it's symbol is HG. (for hydrargyrum which is Greek for water silver)
I've been fascinated by mercury ever since I broke a mercury thermometer when I was young. (I was trying to shake down the mercury to take my temperature and I accidentally dropped it. It shattered on our hardwood floor and I remember corralling the beads of mercury into one large bead before my mother caught me playing with it.)
Some facts about mercury:
- A compound containing mercury was used by hat makers from the mid-18th century until the mid-19th century to separate the fur from a pelt. The expression "mad as a hatter" came about because of the psychological symptoms of mercury poisoning which many hatters suffered from due to the toxic vapors they inhaled!
- Lewis and Clark took liberal doses of a laxative called Dr. Rush's Billious Pills - which were about 50% mercury - on their travels. To this day, one can follow their trail by following the um... heavy metal deposits left behind.
- Mercury was named after the Roman god of the same name.
Of course, mercury is highly toxic so one must be careful when handling it!
photo by p. Gordon