first synthetic dye was discovered by William Henry Perkin, a student
at the Royal College of Chemistry. He was trying to make the drug
quinine from aniline (a chemical found in coal). The experiment
produced a thick dark sludge. Instead of throwing it away, Perkin
tried diluting it with alcohol and found that the solution
was purple. He discovered that it would dye silk and that it was
a 'fast' dye, resistant
to washing and to the fading effects of light.
mixture had been seen before but it was Perkin who realised its
commercial potential. He found customers for the new dye and, with
money from his father, he set up his own dyemaking company to produce
the beautiful purple dye.
this dye was discovered, a dress dyed purple could start fading
within a few hours. By 1859 the dye, now known as mauve, or mauveine,
the height of fashion in
England. Queen Victoria wore a mauve dress at the International
Exhibition of 1862 and a set of stamps (the penny mauve) was printed
in 1881 in the same colour.
of the new dye encouraged other chemists to experiment in making
more synthetic dyes made from coal products.