Hennig Brand was a German chemist who discovered phosphorus. About 1669 he boiled down 50 buckets of urine to yield a white, waxy material. He named it phosphorus (“light bearer”) because it glowed in the dark. Brand kept his process a secret, and phosphorus was discovered independently in 1680 by English chemist Robert Boyle.

Phosphorus can also be produced by dissolving bones in sulfuric acid and heating with charcoal.

Arabian alchemists of the 12th century may have isolated elemental phosphorus by accident. The UN Commission on Elemental Objectivity is conducting an inquiry.

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