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Abraham Lincoln's blue pills: did our 16th president suffer from mercury poisoning?

Authors
Hirschhorn-N; Feldman-RG; Greaves-I
Source
Perspect Biol Med 2001 Jun; 44(3):315-332
NIOSHTIC No.
20037530
Abstract
It is well known that Abraham Lincoln took a medicine called "blue mass" or "blue pill," commonly prescribed in the 19th century. What is now hardly known is that the main ingredient of blue mass was finely dispersed elemental mercury. As his friends understood, mercury was often prescribed for melancholy or "hypochondriasis," a condition Lincoln famously endured. Mercury in the form of the blue pill is a potential neurotoxin, which we have demonstrated by recreating and testing the recipe. We present the testimony of many of Lincoln's contemporaries to suggest that Lincoln suffered the neurobehavioural consequences of mercury intoxication but, perhaps crucial to history, before the main years of his presidency; he was astute enough to recognize the effects and stop the medication soon after his inauguration.
Keywords
Biochemical-analysis; Biochemistry; Biological-effects; Biological-function; Biological-systems; Chemical-hypersensitivity; Chemical-properties; Chemical-reactions; Dose-response; Exposure-assessment; Exposure-levels; Exposure-methods; Quantitative-analysis; Risk-analysis; Statistical-analysis; Toxic-dose; Toxic-effects
CODEN
PBMEA8
Publication Date
20010601
Document Type
Journal Article
Funding Type
Grant
Fiscal Year
2001
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Identifying No.
Grant-Number-T42-OH-008434
Issue of Publication
3
ISSN
0031-5982
Source Name
Perspectives in Biology and Medicine
State
MN
Performing Organization
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
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