Sir William Henry Perkin, who accidentally discovered mauveine violet dye while trying to synthesize an anti-malarial drug.
During the spring of 1856, most university students in London enjoyed a brief respite from their studies, but William Henry Perkin, 18, worked hard in an improvised chemistry lab in his apartment on the top floor of the room. Your teacher. Perkin and his professor had spent the last three years trying to find a way to produce quinine, a chemical found in the bark of the cinchona tree, which at that time was the best available treatment for malaria. As it had to be extracted from the cinchona bark, the medicine was expensive, but August Wilhelm von Hofmann, Perkin’s professor at the Royal College of Chemistry, thought that it could be produced at a lower price in the laboratory. Perkin had spent the last three years as Hofmann’s assistant working on the problem, and when the Easter holidays began to spread in 1856, he felt that he was too close to take a break.
But things were not going well Legend has it that Perkin was cleaning a beaker after another failed attempt to make quinine, when he noticed that diluting the dark purple mud with alcohol left a bright purple stain on the glass. Perkin, in addition to being a prodigy of chemistry, was an avid painter and photographer, so he immediately saw the potential for a bright purple tint, if he could reliably produce it in large enough quantities. He moved his work to a garden shed to keep Hofmann from noticing his extracurricular work, and later that year he applied for a patent on a dye he called mauveine.
Mauveine was the first synthetic dye for the fabric; all the colors of the fabric in the mid-nineteenth century had to be extracted from something in nature, like the juice of a berry or the exoskeleton of a beetle. The best purple dye available at that time was made from molluscum mucus, which was difficult and expensive to extract. Mauveine was a cheaper and more colorful alternative, and at the height of the industrial revolution, Perkin’s time was perfect.