Sir William Perkin

Sir William Perkin (1838-1907), created the world's first synthetic dye, mauveine, at the age of 18.

The discovery revolutionised colour chemistry, gave birth to a major segment of the chemical industry, and opened up new possibilities for a range of industries, most notably, textiles and clothing.

Perkin was born in London and entered the Royal College of Chemistry at 15. At 18, in private experiments attempting to make quinine, he inadvertently created a dye. Just six months later mauve was being used in a London dyehouse. He achieved international acclaim and went on to more discoveries and opened his own factories. He 'retired' from industry to focus on 'pure science' at the age of 36.

Perkin is the subject of Simon Garfield's popular Mauve: How One Man Invented A Colour That Changed The World and features prominently in Tony Travis's The Rainbow Makers: The Origins of the Synthetic Dyestuffs Industry in Western Europe.

The Perkin Medal, which commemorates him, is the highest honour given for outstanding applied chemistry in the US.

Image: Elliott & Fry, CC BY 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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