Burst of Color

Burst of Color

Mauve emerges from the muck

Prior to 1856 all the colors used in everything were derived from plants, minerals or animals.  Back then, your local Sherwin Williams or Benjamin Moore paint stores would have been terribly uninspiring.

So where'd all the color come from?

In May, 1856, William Henry Perkins, an 18-year-old British chemistry student, was working in a lab, trying to create artificial quinine from coal tar. At that time quinine was the only known treatment for malaria, and it was derived from the expensive bark of the cinchona tree. By 1836 the British Empire was consuming 700 tons of cinchona bark annually.   

A formula for synthetic quinine would be of great value.  However, all of Perkins' experiments ended in disappointment. 

After the conclusion of yet another exasperating failure, as he was discarding the resulting sludge, he realized it was a brilliant purplish color.

He had inadvertently created the first synthetic, chemical dye, mauve

Perkins' happy accident advanced the field of chemistry and became the foundation of today's seemingly endless palette of colors.

Meanwhile, the invention of synthetic quinine would take almost another 100 years.

Found Objects Ltd.