This is the biography of a terrifying chemical element, one that was discovered long before humans were capable of controlling its awesome power. Born of the age of alchemy, and harbouring a kind of mysterious power, it brought wealth to a few and misery to many. For more than 300 years, phosphorus maimed, killed, polluted and burned - sometimes on a terrifying scale. Yet such were its perceived benefits that doctors prescribed it, every home contained it, and whole industries were dedicated to its manufacture. It also provoked a reaction among young women workers that is today seen as the start of the feminist movement.
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Dr John Emsley, Science Writer