Phosphorous

Penicillin, as most schoolboys can tell you, was an unexpected byproduct of moldy bread. Less likely to be discussed in a classroom is that the chemical phosphorus was first isolated by a would-be alchemist who thought he could chemically extract gold from urine, and instead wound up with a glow-in-the-dark white powder.

The versatile chemical (now yielded from far less nasty sources) is used today in toothpaste, shampoo, pesticides and fertilizer.

The red tips of matches are made from the a type of Phosphorus, replacing the poisonous, potentially lethal "white" variety used in the 1800s.

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