Date: Fri, 27 Feb 1998 13:13:01 -0500
From: Larry Horn laurence.horn[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]YALE.EDU
Subject: Re: March hare

At 2:20 AM -0600 2/27/98, Mike Salovesh wrote:

Bringing up the the subject of "the Mad Hatter", who shares the stage of
the Mad Tea Party with the March Hare and the Dormouse.

A long time ago, Isaac Asimov commented on the apparent insanity of
Isaac Newton's last years. He thought it was highly probable that
Newton had gone mad as a result of mercury poisoning -- which certainly
wasn't unlikely, given that Newton did play around with mercury a lot.
Asimov went on to say that "mad as a hatter" had its origin in the fact
that hatmakers treated felt with mercury to get a more attractive pile.
Insanity in hatters was simply an occupational hazard.

Anyone have a sighting on whether Asimov was right about mad hatters?

I have no idea, but Martin Gardner invokes the same theory at the point of
his _The Annotated Alice_ at which he comments on the tea party. (There's
also a nice discussion of the respective resemblances Tenniel's drawings of
the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse bear to three early
20th-century philosophers at Cambridge University, one being Bertrand
Russell, if I recall correctly (my copy is hiding at the moment).