British chemist Sir William Henry Perkin honoured in Google Doodle for his chance discovery of mauve dye
A chance discovery during an Easter break in 1856 led Sir William Henry Perkin to create the first synthetic dye.
While attempting to produce quinine – a drug used to treat malaria, and found in tonic water – Sir William Henry Perkin instead created a “bluish substance with excellent dyeing properties” that later became what is known as aniline purple, or mauve. That same year, Sir William Henry Perkin patented the dye and set up an aniline manufacturing plant at Greenford Green near Harrow in London.
Sir William Henry Perkin
Today, on what would have been his 180th birthday, Google is celebrating this discovery with a beautifully colourful Google Doodle.
The Doodle shows Sir William Henry Perkin with a bottle of the purple dye on the right of the Doodle, as the letters of the word Google flow through what appear to be men and women from the 19th century wearing clothes dyed in the colour.
“Perkin’s timing was remarkable as the textile industry was at a high,” explains Google Doodle. “Purple clothing was very much in style, but prohibitively expensive for most, not to mention quick to fade.”
Perkin’s “strong and inexpensively produced mauveine” made the colour more accessible, and therefore more popular, and even Queen Victoria work a mauveine dress to an event in 1862.
After making relative riches from manufacturing, Sir William Henry Perkin turn to researching and studying chemical processes and was knighted in 1906, 50 years after his accidental discovery. That same year, the Society of Chemical Industry created the Perkin Medal to honour Sir William Henry Perkin’s discovery of mauve.