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What the name means: Phosphorus derives its name from two Greek words, phos meaning light and phoros meaning "the bearer". So the literal meaning is "the bearer of light".
Who identified phosphorus?: Phosphorus was first isolated in 1669 by a German alchemist, Henning Brand. He heated large quantities of urine in a flask that kept out the air during the process. The concentrated urine eventually showed as a white solid that glowed in the dark. When he placed this white solid in air there was an immediate reaction which produce a lot of fumes. Alchemists always kept their methods secret, but Brand did give an essential piece of information about his work to Ambroise Godfrey Hanckwïtz, Robert Boyle's assistant. Hanckwïtz had been sent to see Brand when Boyle, in 1680, tried to extract phosphorus but kept failing. With the new information from Brand, Boyle's experiment succeeded and he kept the method safe by giving it to the Royal Society. However, Hanckwïtz improved the original method to make phosphorus and became very rich by selling phosphorus, even exporting it to Europe. Hanckwïtz even set up a pharmaceutical company! He never told anyone the information he had obtained from Brand which meant that no one was able to set up in competition against him. In fact, the big secret was to add solid waste to the urine before concentrating it!
STP = standard temperature and pressure.
About phosphorus: Phosphorus is not found free in nature because of its affinity for oxygen. It can be isolated from its compounds in three forms; black phosphorus, red phosphorus or white phosphorus. Of the three, white phosphorus is the most dangerous since, as Brand discovered, it ignites when in contact with warm air.
Phosphorus in its pure state does not glow. It is when oxygen reaches the surface of the element that the reaction causes light to be given out. The glow is not permanent and will gradually disappear.
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