A selection of early synthetic dyes and dyed material, mid 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
The bottle on the right is a sample of mauveine acetate dye probably prepared by William Henry Perkin (1838-1907) around 1863-1864. Perkin discovered the synthetic dye mauve in 1856 while trying to synthesise quinine, a cure for malaria. A year later he set up a dyestuffs factory at Greenford Green, Middlesex, with his father and brother. He exhibited the mauve shawl shown here at the International Exhibition of 1862. The other bottle contains an early sample of his synthetic alizarin, the dye found in madder, which were used to dye the red cloth shown. The synthesis of alizarin had been reported by German chemists Graebe and Liebermann in 1868, but Perkin was the first to manufacture it using economical methods.