Mercury: historical information
Mercury was known to ancient Chinese and Hindus before 2000 BC and was found in tubes in Egyptian tombs dated from 1500 BC It was used to forma amalgams of other metals around 500 BC. The Greeks used mercury in ointments and the Romans used it, unfortunately for those using it, in cosmetics.
Mercury is one of the elements which has an alchemical symbol, shown below (alchemy is an ancient pursuit concerned with, for instance, the transformation of other metals into gold).
Sometime prior to the autumn of 1803, the Englishman John Dalton was able to explain the results of some of his studies by assuming that matter is composed of atoms and that all samples of any given compound consist of the same combination of these atoms. Dalton also noted that in series of compounds, the ratios of the masses of the second element that combine with a given weight of the first element can be reduced to small whole numbers (the law of multiple proportions). This was further evidence for atoms. Dalton's theory of atoms was published by Thomas Thomson in the 3rd edition of his System of Chemistry in 1807 and in a paper about strontium oxalates published in the Philosophical Transactions. Dalton published these ideas himself in the following year in the New System of Chemical Philosophy. The symbol used by Dalton for mercury is shown below. [See History of Chemistry, Sir Edward Thorpe, volume 1, Watts & Co, London, 1914.]
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