This review covers the toxicology of mercury and its compounds. Special attention is paid to those forms of mercury of current public health concern. Human exposure to the vapor of metallic mercury dates back to antiquity but continues today in occupational settings and from dental amalgam. Health risks from methylmercury in edible tissues of fish have been the subject of several large epidemiological investigations and continue to be the subject of intense debate. Ethylmercury in the form of a preservative, thimerosal, added to certain vaccines, is the most recent form of mercury that has become a public health concern. The review leads to general discussion of evolutionary aspects of mercury, protective and toxic mechanisms, and ends on a note that mercury is still an "element of mystery."