- “Phosphorus is a chemical element with the symbol P and atomic number 15. Elemental phosphorus exists in two major forms, white phosphorus and red phosphorus, but because it is highly reactive, phosphorus is never found as a free element on Earth.”
The German merchant, pharmacist and alchemist Hennig Brand discovered phosphorus accidentally in 1669 when he was trying to produce gold from urine. Here is the method he employed:
- First, urine was boiled to reduce it to a thick syrup.
- The syrup was heated until a red oil distilled up from it, which was then drawn off.
- Once the syrup was cooled, it consisted of a black spongy upper part and a salty lower part.
- The salt was discarded and the red oil was introduced back into the black material.
- White fumes of phosphorus were released which was then passed under cold water in order for it to condense and solidify. This process was done with the help of a retort.
[ux_image id=”695″ link=”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retort?wprov=sfti1″ target=”_blank”]
Here is a painting depicting Hennig Brand (the glow of the phosphorus is exaggerated):
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(1630 – c.1692 or c.1710)