Mercury was known to the ancient Chinese and Hindus and has been found in 3500 year old Egyptian tombs. It was also an important chemical for medieval alchemists, suspected of being an element of which all matter was made from, and when it was solid it was thought to become gold. To the Greeks and Romans, its value was unknown and the Arabian physicians used it for skin affections. Mercury is known as “quick silver- because it is liquid and is silver-white in appearance. Mercury is named from the Greek god Mercury who was the messenger to the gods and was known for his speed; Hg comes from mercury’s Latin name Hydrargyrum, which comes from the Greek word “hydrargyros” (“hydor” for water and “argyros” for silver). Mercury is one of the seven metals of alchemy (gold, silver, mercury, copper, lead, iron ; tin). The metal’s alchemic symbol is often represented by a serpent or snake. The alchemic symbol for mercury could also be used to represent the planet of the same name in astrology. .
Mercury has many unique physical properties. It is the only common metal that is liquid at room temperature. It is a metal whose atomic number is 80 and has an atomic mass of 200.59. Its density is 13.534, which is 13.6 times greater than the density of water. Though occasionally found as small liquid globules in rocks, it is usually mined from cinnabar, a mineral made from mercury and sulfur. It is heated in small furnaces, and oxygen is combined with cinnabar to decompose the mercury out of the ore. Mercury has approximately eleven isotopes. There are seven naturally occurring isotopes and four radioactive man-made isotopes including: Hg-194, Hg-196, Hg-197, and Hg-197m. Hg-194 has the life expectancy of 520 years. .
Mercury’s chemical properties include a boiling point of 356.73 and a melting point of -38.534. Mercury is stable with air and water, and is unreactive to all acids except nitric acid, and all alkalis.