Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Sub Image2:Macro to Micro Structures
1) Atoms and Molecules2) Macro to Micro Structures 3) Energetics and Dynamics 4) Theory and Practice in Chemical Systems 5) Chemical Design 6) The Chemistry of Life 7) Chemistry and the Environment
8) Chemistry at the Interface

Unit 7.4 History: Mercury in Gold Mining
Mercury is an environmental toxin, which served different uses in ancient days. Mercury was used for gold mining, in Asia Minor and in the Roman Empire.
Video program cues: 29:35-31:45

History of using mercury


  • Scroll down this page for a description of early Egyptian metallurgy, including gold and mercury

Mercury in gold mining

"There was a method by which the mercury was shaken up with material containing gold ore, dissolved, and squeezed through a piece of leather. This is probably the origin of the story about Jason and the Golden flits. The gold mines in Asia Minor used that, and the Flits were golden flits."

Professor Hugh Salzburg
Chemistry Historian


Mercury and environmental consciousness

"People died, not that they cared very much; life was cheap in the Roman Empire. But the Emperor Hadrian had some humanitarian impulses along those lines. They tried to limit the hours of exposure of miners to mercury, prescribing showers, washing clothes, and so on."

Professor Hugh Salzburg
Chemistry Historian


Judd, C. S. (2001)' News from Online: Mercury and Our Environment, 'Journal of Chemical Education, Vol. 78, No. 5, pp: 570-571.

Rouhi, A.M. (2001)' Whereto, Mercury?, 'Chemical and Engineering News, Vol. 79, No. 39, pp: 35-38.

Proceed to Unit 7.5 arrow

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