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Term: mercury
References: The Mauritius Command, page 91
Clarissa Oakes, page 76
The Wine-Dark Sea, pages 107-126
The Commodore, page 97
Meaning: A metallic element used for the treatment of syphilis until the development of antibiotics in the 1940s; also used in many industrial processes. In anything but miniscule doses it is a deadly poison. The expression "mad as a hatter" comes from the constant exposure of manufacturers of beaver hats to mercury with its cumulative effects (eg the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland). In the 1950s, mercury ingested by fish eaten by the residents of Minamata in Japan caused permanent and widespread damage to many inhabitants. The usual dosage of mercury in the "radical Viennese treatment" was a quarter of a grain; Martin in The Wine-Dark Sea was using 4 grains. The symptoms he displays are classical for mercury poisoning.

Additional information

Maturin's Medicine — This article is based on information from Maturin's Medicine, compiled and edited by Kerry Webb, with the help of a number of contributors.

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