Were they poisoned by the mercury in medicines?
"I'm sorry to be such a bother." Claudia paces
back and forth on the tilted deck. "But I just have to know.
Do you understand that?"
"Sure," you say. "I guess so. How
about mercury in the medicines? Both calomel and corrosive
sublimate have mercury in them, and mercury makes people go insane."
"Only a pinch of it used," she says,
drawing a hand across her face. "Again, hardly enough to drive fifteen
men howling mad."
"Rats," you say.
"Let's go through the possibilities again,"
"Right," you say. "How about liver
failure? If they all were gulping down grog every day..."
She considers it. "No good,"
she decides. "They had reduced their daily grog ration from 1/4 to
1/8 aquavit. And liver damage takes time. These poor blokes went
from perfectly fine to raving loonies in less than a month."
"Then how about delirium tremens?
When heavy drinkers have to stop drinking, they get delirious."
"But they didn't have to stop. They had casks
and casks of aquavit left."
An Access Excellence
Science Mystery sponsored by Genentech, Inc.
Copyright © 1997 Genentech, Inc.; all rights reserved.