Letter | Published:

Toxicity of Mercury Vapour to Insects

Nature volume 142, page 754 (22 October 1938) | Download Citation



A REFERENCE was made in a communication under this title by H. C. Gough in NATURE of May 21, p. 922, to an old Indian custom of placing a small quantity of mercury in a container amongst stored pulses. It seems worth while to direct attention to an analogous belief amongst the Ahoms. A notable feature of the Ahom reign in Assam was the construction of large 'tanks' or open reservoirs of water, of which the surrounding embankment and the level of the water enclosed therein were considerably above the level of the surrounding countryside. Most of these tanks are in existence to-day, one fine specimen near Sibsagar town having a perimeter of more than two miles. The tanks were dug on the site of a spring, the position of the spring within the tank being indicated by a substantial post, and it is said to have been the custom of the Ahoms to bury an earthenware vessel of mercury at the foot of the post and on the site of the spring in the belief that the water would thereby be purified and the tank remain clean and free from undesirable vegetable growths. We are not aware of any documental evidence for these statements, but they are so well founded in the folk-lore of the people that there seems little reason for doubting at least a substantial basis of truth.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Author information


  1. Tocklai, Cinnamara P.O., Assam.

    • W. WIGHT
    •  & P. K. BARUA


  1. Search for W. WIGHT in:

  2. Search for P. K. BARUA in:

About this article

Publication history





By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.