William Henry Perkin and group at the British Asociation meeting, c 1900.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph of Sir William Henry Perkin (1838-1907) with other members of the British Asocation including Pope, Green and William Ramsay (1852-1916), Scottish chemist, shown here at the far right of the second row. Ramsey discovered the rare gases of the atmosphere. In 1856 Perkin isolated the first synthetic dyestuff, mauve, produced from chemicals derived from coal tar and established the modern synthetic dyestuffs industry. In 1873, he synthesised coumarin, a substance known for its pleasant scent and this initiated the synthetic perfume industry. In 1874 he dedicated himself to chemical research and by 1881 had observed the ability of some organic chemicals to rotate plane-polarised light. One of 19 photographs relating to Perkin, his relations, and the synthetic dyestuffs industry.