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A Simple Change In History February 15, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in death, history, ideas, science.
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It’s great to have friends who come up with nifty ideas. Scott & Pat have actually done research on this and it sounds plausible. Pat goes to garage sales and managed to get a lead crystal decanter worth several hundred bucks for only a few, but should she use it since it is lead crystal (from the turn of the last century)?

Turns out it might be pretty bad if she did. The lead leaches out of the glass fairly rapidly when the decanter is filled with something mildly acidic. Like wine. Which is what you would likely put in a wine decanter. But how much? Scott found that concentrations would be 50,000 micrograms in a few weeks (and the edge of oops for lead in drink is around 50 micrograms). So you could get quite an overdose…from just one glass of wine from that decanter.

As Scott pointed out, the aristocracy most likely to use such a fine piece of artwork would fill it, possibly close the house for a few months, then return. And drink highly contaminated wine.

Worse, the Romans used lead to “sweeten” sour wine, a practice later vintners followed.

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning? When you think about British aristocracy, well, it’s like a checklist.
High blood pressure
Declines in mental functioning
Pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities
Muscular weakness
Headache
Abdominal pain
Memory loss
Mood disorders
Reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm
Miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women

In addition, it can cause a condition very similar to gout.

The aristocracy methodically poisoned itself over the years, likely drinking more wine to cure their hangover symptoms which could well have been due to lead poisoning.

If the aristocracy had not been susceptible to lead poisoning, they might still be top dogs. How’s that for an alt history idea?

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Comments»

1. grace513Kim - February 15, 2012

Amazingly astute adduction… 🙂

bobv451 - February 15, 2012

Kudos to Scott and Pat for this one.

bobv451 - February 15, 2012
2. Stephen Smoogen - February 15, 2012

Hmmm it may have been further than the Aristocrats. Gin was supposedly a huge problem in the early 1700’s after the German Hanover King, George I brought it over as the drink for everyone. Drinking gin from crystal was moving down because lead glass was fairly cheap to make.

Guinness founded Guinness Beer as a temperance movement to move people away from Gin Guinness used non crystal because beer doesn’t taste good in it I think. The Industrial Revolution takes off with the help of non-drinkers (methodists and presbyterians back then were staunchly non alcohol and would not have been lead drinkers. ) Later on though as they moved up in society many of them became “landed” and such and began drinking again from crystal… fall of the British Empire.

So how to move away from lead glass in the early 1700’s?

bobv451 - February 15, 2012

I’m sure it was more than the aristocrats. The Romans put in lead water pipes in England that survived 1800 years. But the lower classes probably died by 30 or so from a variety of other, quicker reasons.

3. Stephen Smoogen - February 15, 2012

Yes.. It was just interesting that from the invention by a British glass-smith in 1647 of “cheap” lead crystal how quickly it spread through England and Europe as the glass you had to store your claret etc in because it was “crystal clear” and made things taste nicer. [Just as you said the Romans had done in the 0’s.]

The dumbing down and “madness” of the upper classes seems to show up a lot after that.. and the lack of “voting” rights to dissenters (Presbyterians/Methodists/Quakers) who were all non drinkers shows their rise at a time they would have been poisoning themselves with the uppers if they had been drinkers.

If something like Corning glass (which was the eventual replacement of Pbglass) could have been made back then.. would it have made a difference? Would the United States not have become the USA because King George and various heads of Parliment been mad as hatters at time.

Thank you for such an entertaining idea on a February day.


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