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.
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This story is a part of our Frontiers series, where we bring you front and center to the dreamers, pioneers, and innovators leading society at the cutting edge. Let us take you along for a trip to the oft-imagined but rarely accomplished.
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