For a long time, a significant number of so-called scientists fully believed in alchemy, the idea that you can turn just about anything into different types of metals -- but mostly gold, because that's what paid the bills. No one cares if you can turn a clothes iron into actual iron.
Among those scientists was Hennig Brand, a 17th-century alchemist and devoted basement dweller who decided things that share a color have to be related. Unfortunately, it only took until his next bathroom break to discover that pee is more or less the same color as gold. And so Brand embarked on his most ambitious "science" experiment yet: accumulating and boiling massive amounts of human urine in hopes that it would somehow yield gold.
What he found, in the end, was almost as valuable, however. Apparently, the boiling process removed other chemicals, like H2O for starters, and left him with phosphorus. Phosphorus is a chemical we now use all over the place, from matchsticks to medicine to complex electronics, and it's all because of some nutjob locked up in a basement, boiling his own pee. In the end, the real treasure ... was the knowledge he left to all of humanity. He probably would have preferred some gold, but still.
For other weird stories about history and science colliding inappropriately, check out the Cracked De-Textbook.
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