The History of Arsenic: Development of a Modern Poison
The history of Arsenic can be used to educate on the development and usage of Arsenic as a weapon. Today precautions must be taken to protect innocent people exposed to Arsenic
The word arsenic is borrowed from the Persian word Zarnikh meaning "yellow orpiment". Zarnikh was borrowed by Greek as arsenikon.
Arsenic has been known and used in Persia and elsewhere since ancient times. As the symptoms of arsenic poisoning were somewhat ill-defined, it was frequently used for murder until the advent of the Marsh test, a sensitive chemical test for its presence. (Another less sensitive but more general test is the Reinsch test.)
Due to its use by the ruling class to murder one another and its incredible potency and discreetness, arsenic has been called the Poison of Kings and the King of Poisons.
During the Bronze Age, arsenic was often included in the bronze (mostly as an impurity), which made the alloy harder.
Albertus Magnus is believed to have been the first to isolate the element in 1250. In 1649 Johann Schroeder published two ways of preparing arsenic.
In the 700's, an Arab alchemist named Jabir became the first to prepare arsenic trioxide, a white, tasteless, odorless powder. Jabir's preparation seemed the ideal poison as it left no traceable (at the time) elements in the body.
Arsenic became a favorite murder weapon of the Middle Ages, particularly among ruling classes in Italy.
Because the symptoms are similar to those of cholera, which was common at the time, arsenic poisoning often went undetected.
Notable deaths by Arsenic poisoning include King George III of Great Britain, Napoleon Bonaparte, and American explorer Charles Francis Hall.
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