[from the Roman god Mercury], metallic chemical element; symbol Hg [Lat. hydrargyrum
= liquid silver]; at. no. 80; at. wt. 200.59; m.p. - 38.842°C; b.p. 356.58°C; sp. gr. 13.55 at 20°C; valence +1 or +2. Mercury was discovered in antiquity, and was known to the ancient Chinese, Hindus, and Egyptians, but was not recognized as an element. It was used as a medicine by Paracelsus. It was first recognized as a chemical element (in the modern sense) by A. L. Lavoisier about the end of the 18th cent.
Sections in this article:
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.