Singlet molecular oxygen (1O2) is one of the most active intermediates involved in photosensitized oxygenation reactions in chemical and biological systems. Deactivation of singlet oxygen is accompanied by infrared phosphorescence (1270 nm) which is widely employed for 1O2 detection and study. This review considers techniques for phosphorescence detection, phosphorescence spectra, quantum yields and kinetics under laser excitation, the radiative and real 1O2 lifetimes in organic solvents and water, 1O2 quenching by biomolecules, and estimation of singlet oxygen lifetimes, diffusion lengths and phosphorescence quantum yields in blood plasma, cell cytoplasm, erythrocyte ghosts, retinal rod outer segments and chloroplast thylakoids. The experiments devoted to 1O2 phosphorescence detection in photosensitizer-containing living cells are discussed in detail. Information reviewed is important for understanding the mechanisms of photodestruction in biological systems and various applied problems of photobiology and photomedicine.