The popular name of sulfur was brimstone, meaning literally "burning stone"; (cf. the Icelandic name).
In Genesis it is referred to: "Then the Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven." (Gen. 19:24). In Bible, it is known as brimstone in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Homer mentions the use of its combustion products as disinfectant several times. In Book 22 (vs. 480-483) is said:
αυταρ ό γε προσέειπε φίλην τροφον Εύρυκλειαν:
"οισε θέειον, γρηϋ, κακων ακος, οισε δε μοι πυρ,
οφρα θεεωσω μεγαρον!..."
"and Ulysses said to the dear old nurse Euryclea,
«Bring me Sulphur, which cleanses all pollution, and fetch fire also that I may burn it, and purify the cloisters»."
The Greek physician and pharmacologist Pedanius Dioscorides (c. 40-90 AD) describes its application in medicine. Pliny the Elder (Roman) described Italian and Sicilian deposits and medicinal uses, bleaching cloth with Sulphur vapors, and manufacture of Sulphur matches and lamp-wicks.
Sulphur was well known to the alchemists, free and as sulphuric acid (Oil of Vitriol, H2SO4). Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan ("Geber", c. 721-c. 815), known as the "father of Arab chemistry", suggested that metals were compounds of Sulphur and Mercury. This made Mercury and Sulphur more important substances to alchemists than other materials. Translations of his work were very popular in medieval Europe. Georgius Agricola (Georg Bauer, of Chemnitz, 1494-1555), in his De re metallica (1556), described matches ignited by friction on stone and the use of Sulphur in the manufacture of gunpowder. The use of sulfur in black gunpowder was discovered by F.R. Bacon about 1241 though the Chinese and Arabs has produced incendiary mixtures somewhat earlier period of time.
In 1772 Antoine Lavoisier proved that Sulphur is an elementary substance. Sulfur was determined to be an element in 1809.
The bright, lemon yellow, non-metallic element, sulfur, is a very soft mineral. It is only 2 on Mohs' scale of hardness. Sulfur has a very low thermal conductivity meaning it cannot transfer heat very well. The touch of a hand will cause a sulfur crystal to crack because the crystal’s surface warms faster than the interior. Sulfur melts at 108 degrees Celsius, and burns easily with a blue flame. Even the flame of a match is enough to set sulfur on fire. When sulfur is burned it combines with oxygen producing sulfur dioxide, SO2 , which smells like rotten eggs.
Sulfur attaches to metal ions, creating a number of significant sulfide ore minerals such as galena (lead sulfide), pyrite (iron sulfide), chalcocite (copper sulfide), and sphalerite (zinc sulfide). Sulfur easily attaches to oxygen, creating the sulfate ion (SO4-2). Sulfates are another significant group of minerals, some of which are important commodities. Gypsum (hydrous calcium sulfate) and barite (barium sulfate) are two commodities that include sulfur.
Sulfur is produced in the caprock salt domes, by the action of bacterial reduction of sedimentary sulfate deposits. In the late 1800’s, Herman Frasch developed a process for removing sulfur from underground deposits. This is still known as the Frasch process. In this process, hot water is forced into the sulfur deposit. The sulfur melts and is pushed to the surface where it is collected and allowed to cool and solidify, or shipped in molten form.
Sulphur was known in antiquity. In Latin, it was called sulpur, and in Greek, Θειο. It was considered the embodiment of fire, and related to lightning. The Greek name, indeed, also means "divinity" and was derived from Θεος, which referred to Zeus, who is often shown with a handful of lightning bolts. In Christian mythology, it is the fuel of Hell. A "p" in Latin was used to represent φ in words borrowed from Greek in the times when it was pronounced with a puff of air, but was not yet the "f" sound. Later, when the "f" sound was used, the "p" often changed to "ph" in Latin words of Greek origin. Although "sulpur" had no Greek roots (it is derived from the Sanscrite sulvere), it was attracted into the form "sulphur" in late classical Latin. The spelling was altered in medieval times to "sulfur," which is the spelling that usually appears in Latin dictionaries. The English word is taken directly from Latin, traditionally in the form "sulphur." The American Chemical Society, at a time when spelling simplification was in vogue, decreed that "sulfur" was to be the accepted form in the United States.
Although resisted by technical users, this form is now general in the United States, though sulphur is still occasionally seen. In the rest of the world, it is still sulphur (Calvert 2002).