Tag Archives: Perkin’s Mauve

Mauve, an unexpected discovery

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Detail  of Doll's dress showing colour mauveine, 1863-1870. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Detail of Doll’s dress showing colour mauveine, 1863-1870. Collection: Powerhouse Museum

Mauveine, the first synthetic organic chemical dye, was discovered serendipitously by William Perkin in 1856. Perkin was 18 and working with Professor August Wilhelm von Hofmann, attempting to synthesise the anti-malaria drug quinine. One experiment yielded a solid black deposit. While washing the glassware with alcohol, Perkin observed a purple colouration and realised that the black solid was dissolving in the alcohol.

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