The story of Hennig Brand discovering the element phosphorous is often repeated without citation, and there doesn't seem to be much scholarship about Brand in particular (although the history of the discovery of the elements has been covered in many books, even some focusing on the history of phosphorous). So far, I've tracked down the story to Leibniz's Historia inventionis phosphori published in 1710 (in Misc. berol.). But here he is referred to simply as "Brand", and in Poggendorffs biography of the history of science, he also only refers to him as Brand. So how do we know the first name of the amateur alchemist Brand?


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Hermann Peters, "Leibniz als Chemiker." Archiv für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik, Vol. 7, No. 2, Apr. 1916, pp. 85-108, reproduces (text only) correspondence between Leibniz and Brand. The author states that at the time of publication, these letters collected by Leibniz were held in the Royal Library in Hanover.

The correspondence transcribed in Peters' publication covers the timeframe between October 1678 and August 1682. Most of the letters by Brand are signed "Hennig Brand M. D.", while others are signed "H. Brand M. D.", "H. Brand M. Dr.", or "H. B. M. D."

It is doubtful that Brand was actually a medical doctor. Johann Kunckel von Löwenstern (Johann Caspar Engelleder, ed.), Collegium Physico-Chymicum Experimentale oder Laboratorium Chymicum, II. Edition. Hamburg and Leipzig: Samuel Heyl 1722, pp. 660-664, who visited Brand on a trip to Hamburg shortly after independently discovering phosphorous, describes Brand as a failed merchant who had taken up work in the field of medicine and was known as Doctor Brand.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent work as always @njuffa ! And always thankful for Leibniz's extensive correspondence with all the big names of his era $\endgroup$ Dec 25, 2023 at 14:59

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