Who is Sir William Henry Perkin?

  • Who is Sir William Henry Perkin?

Who is Sir William Henry Perkin?

On March 12, Google honoured Sir William Henry Perkin with a doodle on his 180 birthday. Perkin has been remembered for his discovery of first aniline dye, the colour of which was adopted by the British royalty and fashion industry then.

Perkin was trying to find a substitute for quinine which was the only feasible medical treatment for malaria in 1856 because the demand for it was exceeding the supply.

Hence the people wearing purple in the Google Doodle, a color too expensive for most people to wear, he made accessible to nearly all. Investigating the substance further, Perkin incorporated potassium dichromate and alcohol into the aniline at different stages and chanced upon a deep purple solution.

After finding that the substance could dye silk permanently without washing out, they called their new chemical discovery mauveine and after sending a sample to a dye works in Perth, Perkin filed for a patent on it when he was still just 18.

The Science Museum said: "Perkin's synthetic colourant was a gateway, leading to the emergence of the synthetic dye industry".

Perkin was married twice and had an impressive seven children. He was unsuccessful in his attempt to synthesise quinine but in a related reaction a mysterious dark sludge was produced.

He first named it Tyrian Purple, but later it became more commonly known as mauve - from the French for the plant used to make the colour. He discovered that the colour transferred to a cloth with impeccable brilliance.

Both Queen Victoria and Empress Eugénie, the wife of Napoleon III were seen in the colour.

Perkin sold the factory and retired at the age of 36, but he still continued to help discover a way to change the structure of organic compound on a molecular level.

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.

The acknowledgement is known as the highest honour in American industrial chemistry. He died at the age of 69 due to pneumonia and other complications resulting from a burst appendix.