Hennig Brand, The Man Who Put the Pee in Phosphorous

Great Big Story takes a look at the 17th century German alchemist Hennig Brand who discovered phosphorous while boiling gallons of urine to attempt to create the philosopher’s stone.

In the 1660’s, German alchemist Hennig Brand thought he knew the secret to making solid gold: pee. So set was he on these golden ambitions, he dehydrated 1,500 gallons (gallons!) of human urine to make it happen. Though pee ultimately failed to produce gold, Brand didn’t have to flush all his hard work down the toilet. In a surprise twist, he discovered a glowing substance we now call phosphorus.