Today celebrates the 180th birthday of Sir William Henry Perkin, the man who is best known for being the first British chemist to discover the serendipitous of the synthetic organic dye Mauveine, from aniline, by mistake.
William Henry Perkin may have been the first British chemist to discover serendipitous of the synthetic organic dye, Mauveine, but you may be surprised to know he didn’t do it on purpose. In 1856 Perkins was at the time just 18 years old and he was trying to do an experiment which involved synthetically producing quinine, this is a chemical that helps doctors treat malaria. However, he did not succeed in this experiment, or so he thought, Perkins came across a brown sludge at the end of his chemical experiment and was therefore about to wash the beakers he had been using with alcohol to sterilise them. What happened here changed his life forever. The sludge turned bright! A rich fuchsia purple bright and to Perkins amazement he had become the first discoverer of organic dye. He named this dye, Mauveine.
Being only 18 at the time Perkins was young but he saw a the chance to grab a business opportunity with this discovery. He opened a dye work shop in London and even Queen Victoria was wearing the bright purple come 1862. Perkins created colours such as:
- A turquoise green, Perkin’s Green.
- Another purple, Britannia Violet.
- A blood red, Alizarin Crimson.
At the age of 69 Perkins died in 1907 but this does not stop him being remembered each year for a chemistry prize bears his name. The Perkin Medal is awarded every year to a new budding chemist whose work has made a huge, significant impact in a commercial or household application. The most recent winner is Ann E. Weber, a former Merck scientist.
With love, Charlotte x