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Mercury was probably known in very early time, though it seems likely that it was discovered after silver, gold, copper, tin and lead. Mercury played an important role in the early work of the alchemists, since it was regarded by many as one of the elements of which all matter is composed…
Mercury is one of the noble metals. It appears near the bottom of the activity series and is very inactive. It is not affected by oxygen of the air at ordinary temperatures, but if heated to about 300oC it slowly combines with oxygen to form mercury (II) oxide. It does not dissolve in the monoxidizing acids, but dissolves readily in nitric acid to form mercury (II) nitrate (King, Caldwell and Williams 604).. Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus and has been found in 3500 year old Egyptian tombs. Mercury is not usually found free in nature and is primarily obtained from the mineral cinnabar (HgS). Spain and Italy produce about half of the world's supply of Mercury (Gagnon).
The element mercury is a metal which is liquid at room temperature. Mercury is a bit like lead but it's liquid. You can hold it in your hand. Heavy (density 13.6), in fact so heavy that objects such as bricks, cannonballs, and lumps of lead or iron will float in Mercury. Gold doesn't float in mercury - it behaves more like sugar in tea! Mercury does not stick to magnets, so if it gets into your carpets or under your floorboards it will be a long-term problem. Mercury vapour makes nice bright lights but is not for breathing. The highly reflective surface of the Mercury makes it the stuff of mirrors. It's also used for thermometers, barometers, electrical devices, etc. ...
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