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What the name means: Mercury was named after the Roman messenger of the Gods, Mercury or Mercurius. It also derives its name from the planet Mercury. The chemical symbol for mercury is Hg. This comes from the Latin word hydrargyrum, itself stemming from two Greek words meaning "water" and "silver". Mercury was often referred to as quicksilver by the alchemists.
Who identified mercury?: Mercury was known to, and used by, ancient civilizations, such as China, India and Egypt. The alchemists believed mercury to be the foundation of all metals. This is because mercury easily alloys with many metals forming amalgams. It gained its name quicksilver because it one of the few elements that is liquid at normal temperature. Since alchemists were often trying to turn other metals into gold, (transmutation) making an amalgam of a metal with mercury was the first step in the process. (It was also very easy for an unscrupulous alchemist to introduce a small amount of gold into the amalgam and claim "transmutation"!)
STP = standard temperature and pressure.
About mercury: Mercury is a dense, silvery liquid at normal temperature and pressure. It is a metal that can alloy easily with other metals to make amalgams. Mercury is easy to obtain from a red-coloured ore called cinnabar (mercury sulphide) by roasting the ore. It can be found as the element in nature, but this is not very common. Mercury can accumulate in the human body and is extremely poisonous. It was once used a lot in industry and in certain instruments, such as thermometers, but its used has been discontinued.
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