William Henry Perkin is credited with discovering synthetic dye at a young age of 18. However, the discovery was an accidental one.
The search engine and tech giant Google has honoured the British chemist Sir William Henry Perkin with a colourful sketch doodle on his 180th birthday. At a young age of 15, his devotion to the subject got him admission into the Royal College of Chemistry. There Perkin started experimenting in synthesising quinine used in the treatment of malaria. However, his attempt at making quinine from aniline, an cheap coal tar waste, was unsuccessful.
The attempt failed, but when he tried to repeat the experiment with aniline instead, he obtained a purple-coloured solution. He discovered that the colour transferred to a cloth with impeccable brilliance.
He first named it Tyrian Purple, but later it became more commonly known as mauve - from the French for the plant used to make the colour.
A 1906 painting of Perkin by Sir Arthur Stockdale Cope hangs in the National Portrait Gallery.
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In the spring of 1856, purple happened to be the most desirable colour of the time. In the doodle, Perkin has been shown holding light in from of fashionable people in purple attires of different shades.
The chemist had made the discovery in the midst of the Industrial Revolution and coal tar, the main source of his raw material, was being produced in large quantities as a waste product. But those colours were tiresome, and the prices were high.
Perkin had made a lucrative discovery, and set to built factories and raise funds to made it widely available. This resulted in a violet fashion craze. His discovery became readily accessible to the masses.
At the Royal Exhibition of 1862, Queen Victoria herself wore a mauveine-dyed gown. Empress Eugenie, the wife of Napoleon III, was also one of the leading trendsetters in Europe. Not only the upper class but also middle-class people could afford handsome bright coloured calico without the fear of it getting faded after washing.
This was the flawless time for Perkin to have made his discovery and he went about getting his father to invest in his discovery, which caught on in Britain's booming textile industry right away.