A History of the Use, Lore and Effects of Mercury


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About the Book

Though modern scientists recognize mercury as a harmful environmental pollutant and one of the world’s most dangerous elemental toxins, mercury was once considered a wondrous substance capable of eradicating internal disease, revolutionizing the paint and cosmetics industries and even entertaining the masses as part of amateur magic tricks and witch doctor scams.
This work traces the history of mercury in popular culture, beginning in the early eighteenth century when Dr. Thomas Dover, nicknamed “Dr. Quicksilver,” began prescribing doses of raw mercury to clear out intestinal blockages and rid the body of syphilis and other diseases. The author then details the role of mercury in several medical, industrial, and cultural applications. In the fields of dentistry and vaccination, mercury continues to be used as a preservative and amalgamative agent. In the cosmetics industry, mercury was once used as a popular “skin lightener” in soaps and skin creams. In the early development of obstetrics and gynecology, mercury was once used to stimulate conception and fetal abortion. Many more uses of mercury, along with many more, are outlined in the work, while several appendices provide translations of rare works which reference mercury.

About the Author(s)

Consultant Richard M. Swiderski is also the author of Anthrax (2004) and Multiple Sclerosis Through History and Human Life (1998). He lives in San Rafael, California.

Bibliographic Details

Richard M. Swiderski
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 310
Bibliographic Info: 19 photos, appendices, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2008
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3596-8
eISBN: 978-0-7864-5196-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface      1

Introduction      3

1. Silver into Black      11

2. The Women of Smyrna      25

3. Lab Work      39

4. Bread and Fish      66

5. Syphilis, Mercury, Syphilis      94

6. Little Blue Pills      120

7. Rob de Laffecteur      142

8. The Lightening Skin      162

9. The Rivers of California      191

10. Red Mercury      216

11. Cycling and Recycling      231

12. Persistence      241

Appendix A: Cocles on The French Disease, 1504      261

Appendix B: From The Dialogue of Mercury and Gaiac, 1527      262

Appendix C: Mercury-Containing Skin Applications, 1928      264

Chapter Notes      265

References      281

Index      297

Book Reviews & Awards

“a fascinating survey…amply illustrated…recommended”—Choice.