Phosphorus was discovered in 1669 by the German chemist Hennig Brand. Brand discovered this element by letting buckets of urine sit for days. He then boiled the urine down to a paste, in the residue he found phosphorus. Phosphorus comes from the Greek word "phosphoros," meaning "light-bearing.".
Because this element is highly reactive, it is never found by itself in nature. One has to break compounds of phosphorus and other elements down to its basic parts to get it in its purest form. There are three main types of phosphorus: white, red, and black. In its purest form it is colorless, odorless, and poisonous. White phosphorus is extremely toxic. One of its most recognizable properties is that it glows in the dark. White phosphorus is highly reactive. When exposed to air it reacts with oxygen, igniting spontaneously. To prevent this combustion, it is stored in water, as it does not react in water. White phosphorus is also the "representative" of the phosphorus family; all chemical measurements will be based on it. Black phosphorus is brittle, with a metallic appearance. It is very stable in this form. Red phosphorus is relatively stable (does not ignite in air) but is still extremely toxic when heated.
Large deposits of phosphates can be found in Russia, Morocco, and the United States of America. In living organisms, phosphorus is found in bones, DNA, lipids, proteins, and enzymes. Because it catches fire so easily, it is used in all matches and most fire starters. Ironically, phosphorus compounds are some of the best flame- retardants used today. It is also used in lubricants, cleansers, water treatment, fertilizer, pesticides, and fireworks. .
Without phosphorus, life wouldn't exist. It is found in nucleic acids, the building blocks of proteins and DNA. Your bones and teeth would be brittle, as phosphorus is a hardening agent. Plant life would have a hard time because phosphorus is a key element in photosynthesis.